Action Comedy

Review: ‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’ Straddles the Blurred Line Between Meta Pseudo-Satire and Buddy Action-Comedy

April 18, 2022Ben MK

One of the most recognizable actors of his generation, Nicolas Cage has just about done it all. Whether it's date night-worthy romantic comedies like It Could Happen to You, nightmare-inducing psychedelic horror like Mandy and Color Out of Space, or adrenaline-fuelled action movies like Face/Off, The Rock and Con Air, you'd be hard-pressed to find a genre that the 58-year-old thespian hasn't touched. With director Tom Gormican's The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, however, Cage may have just found the role he was born to play, as he portrays a fictitious version of himself tasked with helping the CIA rescue a teenage girl and bring down a dangerous criminal kingpin.

Following in the satirical footsteps of films like JCVD and Being John Malkovich, the action comedy sees Nick dealing with an emotional crisis of sorts. It's been years since his name was a big box office draw, and now, thanks to a recent career slump and problems connecting with his 16-year-old daughter, Addy (Lily Mo Sheen), Nick is ready to call it quits. Before he has a chance to throw in the towel, though, Nick's agent, Fink (Neil Patrick Harris), announces that a superfan named Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) has invited him to attend an extravagant birthday party in Mallorca, Spain. Never one to turn down a gig — especially one that's accompanied by a $1 million paycheque — Nick soon finds himself on a private jet headed for Javi's island estate. Once there, however, he catches the attention of CIA agents Martin and Vivian (Ike Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish), who have been keeping tabs on Javi and who end up recruiting Nick for an extremely dangerous sting operation.

As it turns out, Javi is more than just the ultimate Nicolas Cage fan. A notorious drug lord with unsavory ties to the Spanish government and army, he's also the prime suspect in a case involving the kidnapping and ransom of the daughter of the Catalonian president. And with Nick being the only outsider allowed to set foot inside Javi's private compound, it makes him the ideal candidate to go undercover and help save the president's daughter. Consequently, the actor who once played a character recruited by the FBI to rescue hostages on Alcatraz finds himself being recruited by the CIA for a role that's the very epitome of life imitates art. But when the mission gets personal after both Addy and Nick's ex-wife, Olivia (Sharon Horgan), become haphazardly entangled in the covert goings-on, will Nick be able to put his acting skills into action to serve both his country and save his family?

Straddling the blurred line between meta pseudo-satire and conventional buddy comedy, the result promises to deliver Cage at his most uncaged and off-the-wall. Unfortunately, for the most part, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent plays it surprisingly safe, opting to use its quirky premise as little more than the setup for a straightforward, albeit occasionally hilarious, action-thriller instead. Make no mistake, there are a handful of moments here where the scenes come off as genuinely inspired, such as the ones that see Nick conversing — and smooching — with a younger version of himself, and one sequence in particular where Nick and Javi partake in some hallucinogenic drugs, causing them to become ultra paranoid about their surroundings. Aside from these few-and-far-between gems, though, audiences might find the movie somewhat disappointing.

That said, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent isn't a total waste of Cage's talent. For despite the squandered opportunities, the film still manages to prove fairly entertaining, thanks largely to the chemistry between Cage and Pascal, who may just be the most engaging on-screen duo of the year so far. For those expecting to see Cage at his zaniest, however, it's best to look elsewhere in his filmography. After all, once you've had to contend with killer animatronic mascots and journey through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, everything else seems tame.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent releases April 22nd, 2022 from Mongrel Media. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and violence. Its runtime is 1 hr. 45 min.

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