as far as i’m concerned, the mid-80s til about the end of the 90s was the golden age of dtv movies. there’s nothing quite like the feeling of going to your local video stores, who usually have at least one special rental day a week , and picking up something just because it looks interesting and have a few names that you think you recognize. this was a time when video stores actually had videos, as in vhs tapes. maybe i was just at the right age at the right time. somehow it’s just not the same nowadays with the instant streams or redbox type dtv movies, instead of physically walking and browsing in an actual store. these movies just don’t feel as official and formal, and don’t have the attempt to look like a legitimate studio movie most dtv movies do these days. of course, it was also before the days of hipster douchery of weekly bad movie screenings and loving thing ironically. there were cult movies. there were bad movies. and that’s it.
too bad about these “video stores” though.
but enough about my youth, trimark’s 1993 deadfall has always been on my list since it stars nicolas cage. what i didn’t know was that it wasn’t exactly dtv. and it is in no way a bad movie. trimark (not live entertainment, nu image, or cannon), if you are curious, also owns everything from the warlock, leprechaun, turbulence series, to dead alive, swimming with sharks, and cube. the film is directed by christopher coppola, brother of nicolas. it’s kind of a dtv film noir/con game movie that wrapped weeks before reservoir dog was released. so keep your tarantino ripoff thoughts to yourself (and trust me, there are way worse “tarantino ripoffs” than this *coughjoecarnahancough*). it also stars john connor sr., mrs. rocky balboa, derek flint, a easy rider(they later reunite in ghost rider), a monkee, and charlie “robert downey jr. circa 80s & 90s but still the highest paid tv actor” sheen.
at this point a professional movie critic would try to sum up the movie’s story. instead, i’ll let the california punk band snot take over, since they actually wrote a song dedicated to the film. um…spoilers?
cage is actually not the lead in the movie. that role belongs to john connor sr. who in this movie kind of reminds me of mark hamill/luke skywalker, especially the naivete. in fact, he even has father issue like luke(um spoiler?). as with most noir, he also has voice over narration in the film. cage plays the not-so-nice-guy-and-quite-insane eddie. while the film is never boring(though pretty standard of most noir/con films), i have to say cage’s PERFORMANCE(or mega-acting as vern calls it) is the best part of the movie. while he channeled pokey the gumby show character in peggy sue got married, elvis in wild at heart, adam west in kick-ass, cage seems to be channeling tony clifton in deadfall(he refused to take off his sunglasses and wig during filmming). he also seems to refine and improve similar characteristics later in kiss of death(a less interesting major studio noir + remake), leaving las vegas(alcohol instead of drugs), and bad lieutenant: neither remake nor sequel new orleans(alcohol and drugs). a lot of people complain about cage’s “overacting” in movies, but i don’t know, when something is the best thing in a movie, i tend to treasure it rather than complain about it. i don’t see as many people complaining about al pacino yelling as they do with cage. at least they manage to make it entertaining, as opposed to one note performances of the emo pussiness of michael cera or the bitchiness of every single jane lynch character. (no, kids, glee did not create that character, christopher guest did).
cage’s character eddie got his face/fried/off about half way through the movie. if you’re like me, you’d be worried that they just kill off the most interesting part of the movie and it’ll be boring. but you’d only be half/right, and/or half/wrong. just when you thought everything will be routine and standard noir con game stuff, here’s charlie sheen as a young hugh hefner/christopher walken as the snl continental sketch character playing a weird game of pool with luke/john connor sr. before he meets a one-handed(more star wars reference!?) criminal mastermind with a hook for a hand. and this is four years before dr. evil! and i don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but there’s even maybe a hitchcock reference(family betrayal, merry go round) as a climax. the cage-less part is also pretty good for its budget. there are definifely way worse scripts amongst its peers.
it’s too bad that i ended up watching this on netflix instant stream. it’s a pretty good little movie. after watching it brought back all those wonderful memories of discovering low budget dtv vhs movies that i used to be able to get from video stores. some are good, some are bad, some are just interesting. this one’s leaning towards good/interesting. those unknown little movies that you wish you watched with someone and talk about it afterwards(this is pre-internet, pre-blog). i know i would rather watch this again than say, the family man or kick-ass. and as long as you can make an interesting movie, who cares what your last name is.
over at vern’s review of this movie, director christopher coppola actually commented on the movie. it’s an interesting read. he didn’t say it outright but he mentioned that this is the least favorite of his films and that val kilmer quitted this movie to do the real mccoy instead. i don’t know if val kilmer was supposed to play nicolas cage’s part, but i can’t imagine him giving the movie what cage did. as hard as it was for christopher coppola to make this movie with cage, he did say that it’s the only reason he watches this again.
deadfall is currently available on netflix instant stream. i’ll try to track down christopher coppola’s g-men from hell, it’s based on the dark horse comic and stars gary busey.
snot’s song deadfall is currently available on guitar hero: warriors of rock
3.5/5 sam fucking peckinpah