Director: Shawn Ku
Screenplay: John Stuart Newman
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Benjamin Bratt, Noah Le Gros, Mohamed Karim, Karoline Wydra
Country: Canada, USA
BBFC Classification: 15
Another month, another Nic Cage pot-boiler, one of the many he fits in between all the more edgy/critically liked/fan-boy loved stuff he still manages to also make (Joe, Mandy, the upcoming Colour Out of Space). While many have given up on Cage (unless he’s putting something out like Mandy), this two-bit reviewer still enjoys some of these quickie action/pot-boiler flicks he puts out (The Trust is ace, check it out!). Unfortunately, A Score to Settle, despite a promising start, is not one of his better recent efforts: an odd miss-mash of playing it straight Cage and crazy Cage.
He stars as Frank, a recently released convict who took the fall for a brutal murder on behalf of his boss and crew. Told he would only serve a few years and be well compensated, Frank instead serves a couple of decades, loses his wife and sees his son (Le Gros) fall into a drug fuelled spiral. Upon release he vows vengeance on his former gang, all the while attempting to reconnect with his now clean and sober son. Yet frank is also battling a condition, a severe form of insomnia, which may just kill him before he kills everyone else.
While that all sounds like a recipe for some hard boiled revenge action, and for the first 40 minutes we seem to be going that way, proceedings hit a bump as Frank attempts to woo a down on her luck prostitute, the father-son bonding takes precedence over the revenge action and Cage, well, goes all a bit Cage (mainly due to the aforementioned insomnia condition)! Usually nothing wrong with a little Cage-rage but it doesn’t really fit here and the film was progressing nicely when he was playing Frank as a quietly confident straight-man out for retribution. Shame really, as the slow burn hard boiled vibe and the character building of the father and son reconnecting (Cage and Le Gros do share good chemistry) meant A Score to Settle was revving up nicely for some juicy retaliation. Alas, the family bonding (and romantic sub-plot) take up too much time rendering the vibe melodramatic and the action (with Cage looking like he’s going to dish out bad ass justice with a baseball bat) never really arriving.
There is also big plot twist about three quarters of the way through that will be as divisive as they come and while this reviewer isn’t sure it really worked, has to admit he didn’t see it coming. This, coupled with Cage “jazzing up” scenes in his own distinctive way (for some reason chomping on a massive piece of jerky while brutally killing one of his old gang; inexplicably playing the piano and singing through another scene! Actually all that makes this sound awesome!), means what started as a solid action thriller dissolves into an unsatisfying mish-mash of styles. Still, Cage is certainly entertaining (if a little off key here) and the scenes of him and Benjamin Bratt trading dialogue add some meat to proceedings. Certainly a noble attempt to do something different with the revenge genre but not the baseball-bat-wielding-gun-toting-revenge-bender the artwork and trailer suggest.
A Score to Settle is released in the UK on 30th September from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. DVD comes with a making of that is a fairly standard, albeit interesting, featurette of the cast mainly talking about how great the script is. Cage discussing the film, explaining how he tried to “find the music!” and “throw out some curveballs!” in is certainly entertaining: and may explain to slight tonal shift after the first 40 odd minutes.