There’s something chaotic about Nic Cage’s career trajectory. He seems to accept roles with no forethought and wild abandon. I rather admire his commitment to absolute hard work regardless of the project, director, budget, or plot. It’s almost freeing to witness someone so authentically in tune with their purpose in life. His latest project Yuval Adler’s Sympathy For The Devil, from the script written by Luke Paradise, is a mostly two-hander that showcases Cage at his cartoonish zaniness. Fantasia International Film Fest, where it got its world premiere, is a good fit. The genre-specific festival is tailor-made for what the film does best.
Sympathy For The Devil is another chance for Cage to display his signature brand of wacky, eye-bulging, elongated scream singing guaranteed to become a meme, and bizarre dancing. If you loved Renfield, you will enjoy Cage’s performance. If you thought Pig was one of his best performances, maybe skip this one. Playing opposite Cage’s outlandishness is Joel Kinnaman(For All Mankind) playing a beleaguered everyman trying to get to the hospital to be with his wife, who is in labor with his second child.
We first meet Kinnaman’s blue-collar good guy driving his young son to his inlaws on the way to a Las Vegas hospital. He’s a simple man with simple, understandable needs. That primary need to be with his wife and unborn child is interrupted by a deep-red plumed Cage in a flaming red suit jacket with a black goatee and a lighter set to torch mode. As David parks his car in the hospital garage, The Passenger(Cage) jumps into his car, holds him at gunpoint, at demands he drives him to Chicago to be with his sick mother.
Along the way, David tries to alert a woman at a gas station and later unsuspecting late-night diner workers and customers to the danger he and they are in with poor results. The Passenger is clearly on a mission, and that mission includes a lot of impromptu yelling, dancing to Alicia Bridges’ I Love The Nightlife, and saying nonsensical things.
The script is best described as bizarre and was clearly written with Cage in mind. He says things like before David gives him a broken nose, he was 100% sex(he was not), and after, he is only 50%. I’m not sure what that even means. He also delivers a strangely hypnotic speech about The Mucus Man, who sprinkled boogers into his nose as he slept, giving him a permanently stuffy nose. Said stuffy nose made his childhood miserable. In between bouts of verbal diarrhea, he baits a police officer, shoots him viciously in the head, and reminds David of all the things a bullet can do to your head and face.
If you are watching Sympathy For The Devil, you aren’t there for the script. You are there for Kinnaman and Cage, who play off each other nicely as the bonkers kidnapper and terrified victim. Cage is the Yosemite Sam version of Satan. He is all over the top theatrics and ridiculous costuming. He sweats, spits, and rubber faces his way through every scene. Kinnaman plays a straight good guy really well, and his circumstance is sympathetic enough while oddly unbelievable for you to question early everything that is happening.
The final reveal is confusing and requires more than a little squinting to be believable, but the firey sequence that precedes it is impressive. The title and Cage’s costuming telegraph the final twist and could have used a bit more finesse, but again, this is a Nic Cage movie, so you get what you expect. Visually, the film is slick, and the effects are well done, leading me to believe that Adler could produce a more universally appealing film with a different script.
If you aren’t into Cage at his caginess, then you won’t enjoy this movie. If on the other hand, you often wondered what would happen if a self-proclaimed Devil, complete with an absurd outfit, evil villain goatee, and bug eyes, kidnapped a handsome man and made him go on a violent version of Carpool Karaoke buy a ticket. Sympathy For The Devil is in theaters now. Find all our Fantasia Fest 2023 coverage here.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.