YouTube phenomenon “Nicolas Cage Loses His Shit” cut together the idiosyncratic actor’s wildest affectations into a five-minute barrage of gloriously nutzoid performance art. The video, even more than Cage’s recent “comeback” turns in Bad Lieutenant or Kick-Ass, prompts a reappraisal of the oft-ridiculed actor. Can you think of any other star of his stature willing to go to such delirious extremes? Maybe we haven’t been giving him enough credit?
Nope. Season of the Witch is a reminder of what the YouTube video left out, the kind of stoic, phoned-in Cage performance that’s par for the course when he’s working in the blockbuster realm. As a battle-weary knight of the Crusades, Nicolas Cage merely stands around looking glum and letting his hair extensions do the acting for him. It’s the kind of listless paycheck work that’s been a hallmark of so much of his recent career.
Director Domenic Sena previously guided Cage to a similarly dull performance in Gone in 60 Seconds; his Season of the Witch begins, if not promisingly, then at least edgier than expected. The church is the villain here, if only at the outset. Tossing around allegations of witchcraft to keep pushy ladies in their place and using the Crusades as an excuse to slaughter rivals, religious figures don’t come off well here at all. After distinguishing themselves in countless poorly edited battle montages, Cage and sidekick Ron Perlman get fed up and quit Crusading.
But soon they’re blackmailed into transporting a caged witch (Claire Foy) through a murkily photographed forest—and Bragi F. Schut’s screenplay beats a hasty retreat into brain-dead demonology. Turns out we’re not talking about witchcraft at all here (our knights might have figured it out sooner, as Foy clearly weighs more than a duck), but an old-fashioned demonic possession that’s causing the black plague and can only be stopped by the prayers of the devout.
And as for all that mass murder and subjugation of women at in the opening reel? Well, nobody’s perfect.