A game Cage and a game-changing Pedro Pascal give this comedy heart.
One might think that the absolute key to making a meta action comedy starring Nic Cage as Nic Cage would be the actual presence and performance of Nic Cage. After all, if you have no Nic Cage, you have no movie. And while this is indeed true, I don’t believe that Nic Cage alone could have piloted this beast of a film to a smooth landing. For as much as Cage needed to be up for something as ludicrous as this, and for as much as writers Kevin Etten and Tom Gormican (who also directed) needed to be crazy enough to write something like this just on the blind hope that Nic Cage would be interested, and as much as their contributions are vital to the existence of this film… none of them are the secret sauce that elevates The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
That honor would go to Pedro Pascal, playing the multi-millionaire Nic Cage superfan Javi who may or may not be a cartel drug lord but who most definitely is a genuine fan who paid a lot of money to set the plot in motion and have Nic Cage come out to his party on his majestic compound for the weekend. The film is structured around a concept very similar to a film I love deeply called JCVD, in which a weary and down on his luck Jean-Claude Van Damme is caught up in a bank heist and must grapple with everyone’s perception of him as his onscreen persona when he’s not really a bank heist-foiling superhero in real life. That film was a revelation of Van Damme’s genuine talent and his willingness to pull back the star facade and be a little vulnerable. But where JCVD includes some absurdity, it’s a bit more grounded and internal than Massive Talent, which goes in more of a full-on action comedy direction.
Incredibly, this action comedy really works. From amusing to outright hilarious, Etten and Gormican’s script very clearly loves Cage’s body of work and the star persona he has cultivated, and inspired the man himself to go all in, making jokes at his own expense but also getting personal about his passions and shortcomings. The action component comes into play when Ike Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish’s FBI agents recruit Cage to infiltrate Javi’s compound and gather information to shut down the cartel they suspect Javi is leading. Things escalate from there, but Javi is always the main complication.
Pascal’s Javi is the beating heart of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. On the one hand, he’s the audience surrogate, a Nic Cage super fan who kicks off this entire absurd tale. But the genuineness Javi displays is endless. He’s not a creepy fan that would turn this into some kind of stalker thriller. He sees Nic Cage as a full human being—he just desperately wants to collaborate with him on a film project, and happens to be fabulously wealthy. So as Cage is trying to stall and stick around in order to gather more intel for the Feds, he also comes to genuinely love Javi just as much as the rest of us do. Sure, Javi may have some skeletons in his closet and be obscenely wealthy, but he also loves Paddington 2 and Face/Off and has an entire room full of Cage memorabilia.
I kind of hate the term, but The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent thrives primarily as a bro-mance, and it’s the sincerity (and absurdity) of the developing bond between two complicated and kindred souls that grounds the film and makes it more than the sum of its parts. Beyond this, there’s not a whole lot more to the film than countless references to Cage’s career (some of which I’m sure I missed, which would very much reward repeat viewings), and lots of belly laughs. In my book, that’s absolutely alright. I didn’t need a bracing character study, I needed to be entertained and invested, and I was.
And I’m Out.