J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, August 02, 2019

A Score to Settle, with Nic Cage


Who knew being a hoodlum could have a negative impact on your family life? Evidently, not Nic Cage, here playing recently released convict Frank Carver. He agreed to do the time for his boss’s crime, but it turned out to be a much longer stretch than he was promised. Now that he has been paroled for health reasons, he wants a little payback before its too late in Shawn Ku’s A Score to Settle, which opens today in New York.

Carver is getting released because he has been diagnosed with sporadic terminal insomnia. Unfortunately, he cannot watch his own film as a method of treatment. Although the promised payoff came through, Carver is a little put off by the way his former friends just abandoned and forgot about him. He wants vengeance, but he also wants to repair his relationship with his semi-estranged son Joey. Rather problematically, almost the entire first half of the film is dedicated to their pere-fils drama. As a result, we have a chance to watch a version of Cage we rarely get to see: his boring side.

Honestly, this film just takes forever to get going. Yet, when it finally gets down to business, it quickly runs off the rails with a series of crazy-as-a-loon revelations. Of course, Cage is in his element at that point, especially when he inexplicably launches into a loopy rendition of “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.”

Frankly, there is not enough Cage being Cage in Score to Settle. When it comes to ripping off famous films, Utilitarian screenwriter John Stuart Newman makes some bold choices, but it still doesn’t amount to much. The supporting cast does not provide Cage much support either, especially the bland Noah Le Gros and blander Karolina Wydra as Carver’s son and the high-class call-girl he takes a shine to. However, it is sort of interesting to watch Benjamin Bratt portraying Carver’s old and grizzled former colleague Q.

It hard to fathom this is Ku’s next and latest film after Beautiful Boy, released way back in 2011. His previous film had a great deal of merit, even though it was as serious as a heart attack and depressing as a Democratic Presidential Candidates’ debate. In contrast, Score to Settle is a tonal mishmash that largely flubs its big twists. Not recommended (and remember, we recommended Cage vehicles like Mandy, Mom and Dad, U.S.S. Indianapolis: Men of Courage, Dog Eat Dog, The Trust, and Pay the Ghost), A Score to Settle opens today (8/2) in New York, at the Village East.

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