The sinking sense of disappointment upon watching another dreadful Nicolas Cage movie is oft felt yet nevertheless stinging. Like Sharon Stone dutifully returning to James Woods in Casino, there’s a shameful sense of futility that penetrates the soul every time one trudges back and settles down to watch The Wicker Man or Season of the Witch, scrubbing out warm memories of Wild at Heart or Leaving Las Vegas.
Southern Fury, going by the rather more prosaic and humdrum title of Arsenal oversees, is one such movie. A dreadfully trite and violent by-the-numbers revenge thriller, it sets its sights spectacularly low and, amazingly, still manages to shoot itself in both feet. Alternating between crass and stylised violence and sanctimonious self-pity, the end product is so wantonly messy it plummets, at times, to Ed Wood levels of barrel-scraping insensibility and cartoonish farce.
Entourage alumnus Adrian Grenier stars as JP, a good-as-gold straight man living a cheerful life of bourgeois domesticity in what I assume is Louisiana. His bliss is interrupted one afternoon by the kidnapping of his older brother Mikey (Johnathon Schaech), a man with a penchant for finding trouble and who owes local career criminal Eddie King (Cage) $350,000.
With Mikey taped to a chair and with the threat of a potentially deadly bleach highball hanging over him, JP teams up with undercover cop, Sal (John Cusack), and a local drug addict to track down and save his brother before the audience collectively loses its will to live.
The one miniscule – and I mean subatomic-sized – highlight of the piece is the astonishing sight of Cage in a hellishly bad fake nose and wig he seemingly found by the side of the freeway, screaming his way through every scene in what appears to be a bad impersonation of Andy Kaufman’s lounge singer character Tony Clifton. A rare moment of transcendentally bad joy comes when Cage is threatened at gunpoint by a Jesse Ventura lookalike in a plastic room only to respond by yelping and barking his way through his lines like a recently bereaved compere at a working men’s club.
The sobering sight of Cusack, a man who genuinely deserves much better than this, trying to pass himself off a streetwise cop underlines – with a tangible sense of depression – just how abysmally low-rent this all is. It might be able to pass itself off as simplistically and honestly nasty, like a modern day Charles Bronson romper-stomper, if it didn’t insist on veering between unflinchingly nasty, mawkishly sentimental and hopelessly infantile.
On the plus side, at 93 minutes long it’s mercifully brief. So you don’t have long to wait to be disappointed by Nicolas Cage again.
Dir: Steven C. Miller
Scr: Jason Mosberg
Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Adrian Grenier, Johnathon Schaech
Prd: Randall Emmett, George Furla
DOP: Brandon Cox
Music: Ryan Franks, Scott Nickoley
Southern Fury is out in UK cinemas now.