A month ago I watched a highlight reel of the 100 best Nicolas Cage’s quotes. The clips could have doubled as Nicolas Cage’s 100 best freak outs as well.
There was one recurring Cage character that left me interested. You’ll see him first at the 28 second mark shouting “Well here’s to Sam fucking Peckinpah!” If that doesn’t strike a curious chord in your heart, I’ll consider you a lost little soul. Or maybe you just don’t like B-movies.
That man right there, the one in the dark shades, albino contact lenses, thin mustache and long black hair is the insane, scummy con artist Eddie from Deadfall, a 1993 film directed by Christopher Coppola, brother of Cage and nephew to Francis Ford Coppola. No, this Coppola isn’t like the other.
Deadfall also stars Michael Biehn as Joe Donan, a more handsome, less scummy con artist who accidentally kills his father in the film’s opening scene in a con gone wrong! Befuddled by the tragic incident, Joe heads to find his uncle Lou Donan, who turns out to be his father’s twin. Eddie happens to be one of Lou’s best (???) men.
The whole thing is preposterous and the whole chain of events is absurd. It’s one of those movies where characters willingly throw themselves into situations that could end a number of ways, but because there’s a writer writing the story, everything happens to a perfect T and things end up the way they need to, just for the sake of a movie. There’s no wonderment, no shock, no awe. But I’m not really here to talk about this terrible film.
I’m here to talk about Eddie.
The way the story goes – not that there is some kind of mystery about how the wonderful Deadfall came to be – is that Cage was told he could dress however he wanted to for the character. Oh boy. There’s step number one in perfectly utilizing Nicolas Cage. Let him dress how he wants.
Eddie steals the show from the first words he utters until his departure. “PICK A CARD!” he shouts at Joe, introducing his greatest character performance the world would ever be blessed to see. Granted, there’s not much to steal from Coppola’s film. Nearly anything could distract from the lousy screenplay and bland picture. But Eddie could steal from greater things…if he wanted to.
Eddie is a two-timer and a hustler. With a girl at his side that doesn’t really love him (or sleep with him), Eddie paints a facade of a quality life that is only covering the utter madness that exists in his brain. He’s not liked, respected or loved. He’s a fool. But he’s damn entertaining to watch go berserk.
I lied. I do want to talk about Deadfall for a moment. Who knew Biehn was so bad at delivering voice overs? Coppola and co-writer Nick Vallelonga tries to give this modern noir story of con artists conning other criminals while getting conned themselves a human touch by having Biehn recite this really bad, boring and dull voice over, detailing his mental struggles to cope with his father’s death, his curiosity about his mother and uncle and to let us know what he’s going to do next. It simply doesn’t work. The writing is bad and Biehn’s uninspired delivery couldn’t save a thing about it.
So wrapped in its absurdity, Deadfall doesn’t have much to entertain us with. If you view the sillyness like a mastermind with a claw just chilling in the back of a rundown billiards hall that a slick Morgan “Fats” Gripp (played by Charlie Sheen!) calls his stomping grounds as part of a hilarious comedy then the movie does have some payoff.
Back to Eddie. Nicolas Cage is in complete control of this character. It is his own genius creation and no one can ever take that from him. Eddie, a combination of every perverse, drugged up and off his kilter bad guy in pulp/noir cinema history, is played with an insanity only known to the Cage. I was genuinely sad that he exited the film with about 40 minutes left, because until Sheen and the claw-handed mastermind showed up I wasn’t sure what would carry the film. I knew Biehn couldn’t.
This is one of Nicolas Cage’s most underrated, hilarious and fascinating performances I’ve ever witnessed. Despite how bad Deadfall truly is, I’m surprised the film hasn’t risen to more of a cult status considering the way Cage plays his part. That alone is worth sitting through Coppola’s dreadfully boring movie.
Thanks to some Cage fan’s hard work, here’s the top 10 cagiest Deadfall moments for all of you that don’t want to sit through Coppola’s dreadful film. Warning: spoilers, vulgar language and other inappropriate things are to follow.