When gracing the cover of The Guardian’s weekend magazine recently, Nicolas Cage told the interviewer, Emma Brockes, that he would rather be considered a performer than an actor. Given some of the outlandish performances which have contributed to his reputation, it may be a slight disappointment that Cage’s star turn in Simon West’s Stolen (2012) is not one of ‘those’ turns, even if he is offered any number of opportunities to cut loose and produce the eye-popping goods. It’s a shame, because Stolen is exactly the kind of preposterous action thriller that would clearly benefit most from Cage turning it up to eleven.
Cage plays Will Montgomery, a bank robber who we see get pinched by FBI Agent Tim Harlend (Danny Huston) in the opening 20 minutes. After eight years in jail, Will gets parole and goes looking for his now-teenage daughter, Alison (Sami Gayle). Before the two can reconcile, Alison is kidnapped by Vincent (Josh Lucas), Will’s former partner-in-crime. Vincent demands the $10 million that he believes Will hid before being arrested eight years ago, and gives him twelve hours to get hold of it with the help of old friend Riley (Malin Akerman). Ridiculous as it is, Stolen is a solid and entertaining thriller. Will’s arrest comes at the end of a 25-minute opening heist sequence that effectively sets up all of the narrative’s central conflicts.
The dialogue often clunks horrendously, but sometimes to great comic effect – there are a few Face/Off-esque moments of bravado that play as parody, possibly intentionally. Yet, the plot jigs along at pace without overcomplicating, and the audience gets to see Harlend and his sidekick, Fletcher (Mark Valley), actually do effective police work. Stolen switches back and forth between slick, serious crime thriller and deranged silliness with such ease that it would be churlish to criticise these whirlwind tonal shifts.
Lucas’ cartoon-villain reading of Vincent occasionally threatens to overbalance the delicate tightrope act, but West manages to keep things fairly even throughout. It’s not likely to challenge for a significant spot in Cage’s filmography, but Stolen is a thoroughly entertaining 96 minutes of chases and shoot-outs. It was never likely to be as high-minded a work as Spike Jonze’s Adaptation (2002) and it’s not as lurid and silly as Drive Angry (2011), but in amongst other mid-budget thrillers, Stolen is a small, light success.