If there’s a complaint I have with Simon West’s Stolen, it’s that it’s not wacky enough. Sure, it boasts a loopy performance by Nicolas Cage and an even wilder one from Josh Lucas. And yeah, it has all the value of a television series from the 1980s – complete with its own recurring musical theme. But something about this 2012 flick plays things a little too close to the chest.
West and Cage first worked together in 1997 when the director was making his debut with Con Air. That wild and woolly actioner was one of my favourite flicks as an impressionable 18-year-old and, along with John Woo’s Face/Off turned my high school graduation after-party into something special for us nerds. While those days might be gone, there’s still something about Cage that makes me smile.
In Stolen, Cage is a thief named Will Montgomery. After a bank robbery gone wrong, he is plunked in jail. It is believed that his old team has disbanded, so Will tries to get his life back in order and reaches out his daughter Alison (Sami Gayle). She rejects him initially, but things get complicated when a thought-dead partner of Will’s (Lucas) takes her hostage in a taxicab.
Will is thrust into action because the creep wants money from the last heist. One problem: Will burned the money to escape a longer prison sentence. The cops are also watching the former thief, with a detective (Danny Huston) and his partner (Mark Valley) hot on his trail. Without the money from the heist and with his daughter in the trunk of a cab, what will Will do?
The plot is basic and has been done to death in a million other movies, of course. The whole reformed criminal thing enables us to cheer the bad guy somewhat while still acknowledging a layer of hope for his redemption. The proposition is that we want to see Will get it together with his daughter and, what’s more, we want to see Will get the girl (Malin Akerman).
It’s hard to make the case to seek out Stolen if you’re the sort of person that likes quality entertainment, but it’s also hard to make the case that this movie is anywhere near as repugnant or awful as a lot of the claptrap that comes out. There are some satisfying car chases, but cinematographer Jim Whitaker doesn’t exactly do a bang-up job capturing the action.
Perhaps the most exceptional thing about Stolen is Josh Lucas’ utter commitment to a pirate-like B-movie villain. He gets to lose his leg and he gets to carry a big chip (not a parrot) on his shoulder, which makes the role of Vincent all the more amusing. And he gets to sputter lines like “I was a golden boy, dollface, now I’m a freakin’ Picasso” through yellow teeth and hideous facial hair.
There are a few Cage sound bites, although nothing near the quality of some of his zanier work. He sputters something about blowing a bad guy’s lunch all over the carpet in one scene and indignantly denies listening to CCR in another. He is, for the most part, the straight arrow to Lucas’ lunatic pirate.
Stolen also features one of the silliest bank robbery sequences in recent memory and pulls off the old pinecone/gold-pile switcheroo like nobody’s business, but it still feels safe. There was a real opportunity to go for B-movie gusto and the stars were certainly aligned, but West and screenwriter David Guggenheim steer things too straight even when they know they shouldn’t.