– Summary –
Director : Simon West
Year Of Release : 2012
Principal Cast : Nicolas Cage, Malin Akerman, Josh Lucas, Danny Huston, Sami Gayle, Mark Valley, MC Gainey, Tanc Sade.
Approx Running Time : 96 Minutes
Synopsis: After he is released from prison, Will Montgomery’s former partner kidnaps his daughter and holds her for ransom. Will has 12 hours to steal $10 million, or else she’s dead.
What we think : Bland, generic crime-thriller, a semi-Taken style chase-n-race flick that gives us a breathless, 1-dimensional narrative that has fewer twists and turns than a set-square. Stolen has virtually no quality to which one might equate “excellence” or “greatness”, content to ride Nic Cage’s falling star into the dirt with hokey plot contrivance and illogical, inane action sequences that are as numbing as they are tedious. Stolen steals 90 minutes of your life, with no chance of parole.
Another Nic Cage bomb? Say it ain’t so!
Honestly, Nic Cage better snag an Oscar worthy role sometime soon, because his career choices seem almost counter-intuitive to the ones which saw him become Hollywood’s most bankable star in the mid-90’s, with mega-hits like Con Air, Face/Off and The Rock, as well as his Academy glory in Leaving Las Vegas, bringing not only industry kudos, but box office bullion to the coffers of major studios. While Cage’s career has been in steady decline for the best part of twenty years, having made turkey after turkey and become an internet meme industry all to himself, it’s at least comforting to know that somewhere, somebody is still willing to offer this kooky, whacked-out actor an income. Making schlock like Drive Angry or Season of The Witch, in amongst relatively highbrow fare like World Trade Center or Kick-Ass, Cage has remained within the public eye, if not entirely at the forefront. Stolen, directed by his Con Air helmer Simon West, is not one of his best films. In a lean run between The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and The Croods (his last two seriously bankable films), which included Trespass and Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (which is still one of the worst films I have ever seen), Stolen is probably the lowest of low points, not the least since West wastes a reasonable cast on what is a hamstrung, tired, cliched heist-crime flick and flambes the remains with sledgehammer subtlety. It’s telling that on a budget of around $17 million, the total domestic box office could be counted on only six fingers.
Will Montgomery is a highly capable thief, stealing a vast sum of cash from a New Orleans bank with his accomplices Vincent (Josh Lucas), Riley (Malin Akerman) and Hoyt (MC Gainey). After he is left behind to take the rap for a heist gone wrong, Will spends eight years locked away, before being released. No sooner is he out of prison, however, than former partner Vincent kidnaps Will’s daughter, Alison (Sami Gayle), locking her in the trunk of his New Orleans taxi cab. FBI Agent Harland (Danny Huston), who busted Will for the heist, is trying to locate where Will may have hidden the money from the crime (Will burnt it, although nobody believes him), and is disbelieving when Will approaches him for help to track down Alison’s whereabouts. Desperate to track Vincent and Alison down, Will has only 12 hours to come up with $10 million before his daughter is killed, and he must evade the FBI who are constantly on his heels for violating his parole.
From it’s opening moments, you can tell that Stolen isn’t going to be a great film. Some fat guy walks across an empty New Orleans street at some ungodly hour, starts pissing into the gutter, and is promptly removed by prowling FBI guys. From there, the film’s most enlightening moments come whenever Nic Cage is screaming down a phone, I shit you not. Stolen represents a waste of money, a waste of talent, and most annoyingly, a waste of your time. I know this, because it wasted mine. Simon West, who did a terrific job behind the camera for the Expendables sequel, and who hit a home run with Con Air and the original Tomb Raider flick, just can’t seem to muster any energy or frisson in Stolen’s limp-wristed screenplay and Nic Cage’s manic, nonsensical performance. And not being able to wrangle Nic Cage is an art in itself, I’d wager. The film merely ambles, when it really should sprint, and even though Josh Lucas plays the crazy with dedication and a decided lack of charm, Stolen never becomes the film it should be with him in it. Between them, Cage and Lucas cancel each other out, mainly because it should have been Lucas in Cage’s role, and Cage as the crazy nutter, not the other way around.
Stolen’s haphazard action sensibility isn’t what I’d expect from a director of West’s caliber. He’s better than this; Stolen has some terrible camerawork and editing (Jim Whitaker cannot cut together and action sequence to save himself) and any momentum the premise might present as an inherent tension-builder, fades as the curiously tepid game of cat-and-mouse runs its course. It’s all so predictable, really, in that you can guess from the opening who’s gonna turn on who, who’s gonna be the bad guy, and where the plot goes once Alison is bundled into the back of the cab. As the film builds to its climax (set in an abandoned funpark, which perhaps is ironic considering how abandoned by fun this film is) and the final confrontation draws near, scientific possibility and logic fly right out the window, as our valiant villain makes it (with a prosthetic leg, no less) from a dock and into water, minus a shirt and somehow becoming Aquaman in the process, to tackle the distracted Nic Cage, who is in the water for a different reason, in about six seconds. Yes, the plot appears to have been made up the day before filming, and it shows.
Danny Huston is a far better actor than this film deserves – as Harland, his dapper, hat-wearing FBI agent seems a touch too whimsical for the rough-and-tumble of this gritty, New Orleans-bound story. He’s like a wash-cloth in a brothel, really; he sticks out. Malin Akerman must be hard up for cash in taking this role, a nothing time-waster for which about the only positive comes from her getting to speak her native Swedish at one point. She’s eye-candy that’s never utilized, and it’s a shame. Sami Gayle does her best locked-in-a-trunk routine for the majority of the film (apparently, the makers of The Call must have seen this one, because elements of that film make a feature here!), with some mixed-up teen arrogance and Disney-fied sweetness that makes her a rather unlikeable character in the first place. MC Gainey has a small role as a former accomplice of Will’s, which sees him turn into a semi-hobo type with a drinking or eating problem. I’ve touched on Lucas and Cage already, but their performances bear repeating: Lucas spits his way through the Bad Guy role with the cheesy, eyeball-rolling elegance of a German orgy, while Nic Cage can barely register any life whatsoever, unless he’s screaming down the phone at Vincent to “give him back his daughter”…. reminded me of Taken, a lot.
No, Stolen isn’t some underground hit waiting to be discovered amongst the dreck that has become Nic Cage’s career. It’s not even one of those “so bad it’s good” films, either. It’s just a dull, chore of a film, a blip on the radar of Cage’s decline but a major stumbling block for the better actors who co-star with him. Simon West’s career seems to lurch from success to failure with an alarming ease – his Con Air was followed by the terrible The General’s Daughter, while Lara Croft was followed by the When A Stranger Calls remake, which wasn’t great but admittedly wasn’t total shit either. And prior to Stolen, his success with Expendables 2 was preluded by a flat-footed Jason Statham flick, The Mechanic. Stolen isn’t a glowing mark of an accomplished filmmaker – it smacks a lot of the type of hack job vomited out by Renny Harlin or Brett Ratner, the middling, piffle-waffle crud you’d scrape off your boot before you walked inside. Avoid Stolen, and save yourself having time stolen from you.