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Sympathy for the Devil – Film Review

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sympathy for the devil film review

Horror and thriller movies have made a lot of everyday things uncomfortable. Jaws made swimming in the sea threatening. Ghostbusters made me scared to go into libraries as a kid. Now, Sympathy for the Devil has made pulling into hospital car parks something we’ll think twice about. Is nothing sacred?

Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad, The Suicide Squad) is pulling into a Las Vegas hospital for the birth of his second child. That should be a moment to be celebrated, but he doesn’t account for Nicolas Cage being there, skulking in the shadows. As soon as Joel stops the engine, Old Nic is in the backseat, poking a gun into his back.

Now, get your Cage-o-meter out: the measure of just how over-the-top Nicolas Cage is in a given movie. Ready? The bar shoots up high and hits a solid 8 out of 10. This is a movie that unleashes the Cage, giving him long periods of wild eyes, frothing and creative swearing. It even lets him dye his hair red and wear a fetching scarlet suit. This is Nicolas Cage at his most wild.

Nic (unnamed until the end of the movie, so we’ll keep him unnamed here) wants Joel (also unnamed, because that’s important) to drive to Boulder City. We’re not sure what’s waiting for him there, or what Nic wants with him, but it becomes increasingly clear that Joel won’t be there for the childbirth. His phone repeatedly rings with a narky wife wondering where the hell he is.

Sympathy for the Devil is one of those movies that knows how to conserve its budget by keeping the locations low. While it isn’t as one-location as Locke, Buried, Phone Booth and more, it’s not far off. The vast majority of Sympathy for the Devil’s action takes place either in Joel’s car or in a diner which forms the middle third of the movie. This is one of those movies that you can imagine being made over lockdown, when including more than two people in a single shot was something of a logistical ballache.

While that might make Sympathy for the Devil sound one-note, it ramps up the tension. Joel is not going to go willingly, and constantly pushes at the edges of what he can get away with. He speeds in front of police cars, mouths ‘help me’ to strangers, and other micro-rebellions that might save him. But all it tends to do is bring innocents into the crosshairs of Nic.

Sympathy for the Devil rides a very fine line between corniness and genuine threat. Which is expected for a Nicolas Cage movie. He’s allowed to thoroughly chomp through the scenery, delivering ridiculous one-liners about cheddar cheese that any other actor would turn their nose up at. It can lead to some tonal swings, as you’re not sure whether to laugh, cry or wince. But he’s just so damn watchable that the lack of believability is often forgotten about.

Joel Kinnaman is rather good too – inscrutable enough to make the question of whether he deserves this treatment a difficult one. His character has issues though, while he doesn’t: he’s so bad at placating the increasingly angry Cage that you wonder whether he’s trolling him on purpose, while we were screaming at the telly for him to actually put his phone on silent – something he never does, which trips him up more than once. Oh, and the ending revelation about his character could only go one way, which leads to a bit of a shrug. But in terms of an acting performance, Joel does a good job with an unshowy role.

Because the showyness was always going to belong to Nicolas Cage. His turn in Sympathy for the Table is as  unsubtle as his bright red suit, and there are precious few actors who can deliver this much entertainment when they’re cut loose. He’s delivered subtlety recently in films like Pig and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, so it’s a joy to see him in full Face:Off mood.

Sympathy for the Devil was not a film that we had high hopes for. It dodged the cinema in our area, and Nicolas Cage was due a phoned-in performance that was done solely for the cash. But you know what? Sympathy for the Devil is a compact thriller that makes best use of the few locations and actors that it’s got. It also makes the incredibly wise choice of hiring Nicolas Cage, dialling him up to 8 on the Cage-o-meter, and just letting him go for 90 minutes.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Tight, efficient thriller
  • Nicolas Cage being Nicolas Cage!
  • Quotable, memorable moments
Cons:
  • Ending is as predictable as they come
  • Created comedy when it probably shouldn’t
  • Joel Kinnaman’s character asks for trouble
Info:
  • Purchased by TXH
  • Running time and release date - 1hr 30mins | 2023
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Tight, efficient thriller</li> <li>Nicolas Cage being Nicolas Cage!</li> <li>Quotable, memorable moments</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Ending is as predictable as they come</li> <li>Created comedy when it probably shouldn’t</li> <li>Joel Kinnaman’s character asks for trouble</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Purchased by TXH</li> <li>Running time and release date - 1hr 30mins | 2023 </ul>Sympathy for the Devil - Film Review
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