The Movie Waffler New Release Review - SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL | The Movie Waffler


Sympathy for the Devil review
A mysterious man forces his way into a car and terrorises its driver.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Yuval Adler

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Joel Kinnaman, Kaiwi Lyman, Cameron Lee Price, Rich Hopkins, Nancy Good, Alexis Zollicoffer, Oliver McCallum

Sympathy for the Devil poster

2021's Pig fooled a lot of us into thinking Nicolas Cage may have turned a corner in his career, delivering an under-stated performance in a movie good enough to suggest he had picked the role for its quality rather than to pay off another chunk of his infamous debt. That film reminded us that when he dials down the histrionics, Cage can be a genuinely good performer. Pig was quickly followed by the meta comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, in which Cage played a fictional version of himself, allowing the actor to indulge his worst tendencies. That brief spell in the critical and commercial limelight was soon followed by another descent into straight to VOD fare, where directors are happy for Cage to ham it up if it gets their movies plucked from the virtual shelves by content hungry viewers.

Sympathy for the Devil review

Thing is though, Cage's worst tendencies as an actor are still wildly entertaining, and they've enlivened many an otherwise unremarkable piece of VODder. That's the case with Sympathy for the Devil, a bland road movie thriller with an over-the-top Cage performance that keeps us from nodding off.

The title suggests that Cage might be playing some sort of supernatural figure here, maybe even Old Nick himself, and Cage seems to take a lot of inspiration from Al Pacino's memorably hammy turn as Lucifer in Devil's Advocate. He plays a character whose name we never learn but whom the credits refer to as The Passenger (taking its cues from Two-Lane Blacktop and The Driver, the movie credits every character by their role rather than name), and his velvet leisure suit and dyed red hair and goatee do little to dispel the notion that he's the embodiment of Satan.

Sympathy for the Devil review

A man initially known as David (Joel Kinnaman) has an unfortunate encounter with The Passenger when he barges into his car as he's about to visit his wife at the hospital where she's about to give birth to their second child (we've already learned of a previously failed pregnancy by this point). Pulling a gun on David, The Passenger initially just asks him to drive to an ambiguous destination, but details gradually seep out as to why David might have been chosen. The Passenger insists on calling him James, and makes reference to a past life in Boston which David denies. Is it a case of mistake identity or is David really hiding past sins?

I doubt many viewers will care for the answer, and it's clearly obvious early on that David may not be the mild-mannered suburban Dad he's posing as. As the title suggests, The Passenger's backstory, related in typically exuberant Cage fashion, gives us a degree of sympathy for his lunatic, but a lunatic he is, and several innocent parties pay the price for David's various attempts to free himself from the madman's clutches.

Sympathy for the Devil review

Director Yuval Adler and writer Luke Paradise's film owes much to the likes of Collateral and The Hitcher, but it lacks the style of the former and the suspense of the latter. It's really only held together by Cage's crazy glue. The movie's highlight sees Cage terrorise the staff and patrons of an all-night diner in a scene reminiscent of Bill Paxton going postal in Near Dark. We get to watch Cage prowl around the set like an uncaged tiger as he dances and sings to Alicia Bridges' 'I Love the Nightlife', and while we can't help but laugh, he is undeniably scary. Are movies like this beneath Cage? Maybe, but it's undeniable that he elevates such fare, and I can't imagine getting through Sympathy for the Devil without his distinctive presence.

Sympathy for the Devil
 is on UK/ROI VOD from September 8th.

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