Director: Paul Schrader
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Anton Yelchin, Alexander Karim
Anton Yelchin is one of my favorite young actors, Nicolas Cage one of my least favorite old ones. So who would win out in a movie they star in together? Both, actually, have impressed me lately in very gritty & dramatic roles. Yelchin was excellent in Rudderless, a film about loss and the grieving process, but with music as a tool. Cage was surprisingly strong in Joe, an odd film about a quiet country man and the boy that changed his life. Yelchin would have to really stink the place up to get a bad review from me, and, conversely, Cage would have to do an amazing job to get so much as a thumbs up. So, paired up, how would they do? Well, let’s just say that good doesn’t always triumph evil, especially in a CIA thriller about a washed up agent with a messed up ear who just wants to kill one more bad guy before he loses his mind. Doesn’t sound like a set-up for success, and you might not be surprised to hear that it wasn’t.
Over twenty years ago, CIA agent Evan Lake was captured and tortured by the evil Muhammad Banir. He may have escaped with his life and a little less of an ear, but that event has always haunted him. Banir was reported dead after Lake’s extraction, but Lake has never believed this to be true. Years later, he is still hunting the man he believes got away with murder, though now from behind a desk. And with his career winding down, Lake would love to get back into the field once more. But that’s not going to happen, not with the outbursts he’s been having at work, not with the secret doctor’s appointments he’s been arranging miles away, and not with the illness that will soon derail his legacy as one of the Agency’s best operatives. It’s a sad way for a hero to go out, with unfinished business and so much left to give to his country.
However, it’s not over ’till it’s over. A young agent named Milton Schultz may have just stumbled across something, a vital piece of information that could prove not only that Banir is alive, but also give away his location. Milton owes Evan a multitude of favors and views his as a mentor, but doesn’t know about his medical problems, creating a working relationship based less on trust and more on a father/son bond. Before it’s too late, Lake vows to crack the case, find Banir, and bring him to justice, whatever it takes. And so the pair fly to Romania, assume new identities, meet with Lake’s old compatriots, and begin a mission that can only end one way; in death. Whether that will be Lake’s or Banir’s death is still to be seen, but the old enemies will face once more, and this time there will be no escape, no questions, and no mercy.
It’s not that Nicolas Cage is bad, it’s that he’s so bad I want to go back in time, travel to the set of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and tell him to make a career change. I just can’t stand the guy, and I know that’s a Me Problem, but I also assume I’m not the only one who feels this way. Obviously he’s got a ton of fans around the globe who buy tickets to his movies and keep studios assuming that a Cage film will be a guaranteed money-maker. But the man is not a good actor, he’s just not, and I’m tired of seeing him. Like Kevin Costner, sometimes he stumbles into a role that suits his perfectly and does a decent job. Raising Arizona, Adaptation, Joe; these are solid movies in which he does a solid job. But judging from the vast majority of his films, I’ve got to call these gems accidents, not strokes of talent in a career that’s proved a lack thereof.
And Anton Yelchin, poor guy, he was brought down to Cage’s level in the worst way. Cage was over-dramatic, unlikeable, looked weird, acted weirder, and was as far from a hero as a protagonist could be. Yelchin suffered as a sidekick to this obscenity, coming off as pathetic instead of sensitive, silly instead of intense. He’s a great up-and-coming star, but he needs to learn lessons elsewhere, not in Cage’s shadow, not in a movie that was never on the path to success. It was your typical, boring, overloaded CIA thriller that movies like Burn After Reading lampoon so well. In fact, it was worse, because it had zero original content, trying & failing to become a poor man’s Spy Game, using that film as a example of what to do and then not successfully doing any of it. With limited action, and that really gross and out of context when it occurred, Dying of the Light is a movie that misses the genre and therefor should be missed.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (16×9 Widescreen) 1080p HD, the Blu-ray video was as good as you’re going to see. If fact, it was almost too good; who wants to see Nicolas Cage’s face in that high of definition? With some action and a breadth of set locales, the picture quality was put on display and used to its full potential. Scenes were extremely clear, well-balanced, and visually appealing; something that can’t be said about the rest of the film.
Audio – The disc was done in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. There is an option to run a DTS-HD MA Sound Check, which plays a test tone on all five speakers, making sure sound is balanced before the film begins. There are also three subtitle choices: English, Spanish, and English SDH. The audio quality was quite good, with a nice balance of background sound and spoken dialogue.
Extras – There are many extras on the disc. Behind the Scenes is a 14-minute look at the making of the film and the actors who developed the characters. Deleted Scenes is a 23-minute reel of bonus footage containing fourteen scenes in all. Interviews with Cast and Crew has inside takes from writer/director Paul Schrader, Nicolas Cage, Anton Yelchin, Alexander Karim, Claudius Peters, and Adetomiwa Edun. Bookmarks allow the owner of the Blu-ray to delete, add, and toggle bookmarks on the disc. And lastly, there are five trailers; Dying of the Light, The Frozen Ground, Reclaim, The Prince, The Homesman.
Skip It. Perhaps you’re a Cage fan, and perhaps you like when he wears funny hats, fake goatees, and attempts a Romanian accent. I’m going to dedicate this review to those who don’t fall into that category, those who like their movies good and their actors talented. Cage brings his F-game here, failing miserably to be a believable …anything …and bringing an inherently bad movie crashing down around him in the process. Yelchin couldn’t save this film; he’s not quite there yet, and had too big of a buffoon to battle for the spotlight anyway. Stay away, or by all means watch and giggle, because that’s about all this film is worth. The video is great, however, and the audio strong as well, with a disc full of extras if you’re thirsty for more. I’m not, that’s for sure, and I doubt you’ll be either.
☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ – Replay