This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
"Swift, fun and incredibly straightforward, Sympathy For the Devil showcases good performances from it's two leads yet fumbles the bag with it's lacklustre plot."
BY BECCA JOHNSON AUGUST 2, 2023
Sympathy For the Devil is a 90-minute revenge romp that adds another unhinged Nicolas Cage performance to his current string. After being forced to drive a mysterious passenger at gunpoint, a man finds himself in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse where nothing is as it seems. Swift, fun and incredibly straightforward, Sympathy For the Devil showcases good performances from it's two leads yet fumbles the bag with it's lacklustre plot that fails to create as much intrigue as it hopes.
You pop Nicholas Cage on a poster, people come running – if you check this movie out for Cage alone, you won't be disappointed. One of his craziest performances to date and becoming a great double feature when paired with Renfield, his Dracula movie from earlier this year, his turn here is great. Fuelled by corny, hilarious one-liners, dyed red hair and a vibrant red jacket to match, his unhinged villain is wildly wonderful. It's a good job we have him in this movie as he massively elevates the script and delivers his lines in a wacky yet engaging way. Starring opposite is Joel Kinnaman (The Suicide Squad), who is a good match for talent and gives a great performance. The pair work well together effortlessly and become Sympathy For the Devil's best asset – they're a fun duo to follow.
The next best thing about this flick is the aesthetic – full of gorgeous neon's and impressive cinematography, it opts for a noir vibe that helps its audience engage with and get behind its story. From it's Vegas cityscapes to it's vibrantly lit American diner, it feels reminiscent of films we already know and love from the genre and includes magnificent lighting whilst doing it. Cage's costuming is also fantastic and it's smooth Rock soundtrack brings everything together nicely. It may pull all the strings needed in attempt to create a noir thriller favourite, but it never quite manages to get there.
At just 90-minutes long, it moves at a reasonable pace yet somehow manages to feel a little slow to start. We spend a little too long watching Cage waggle a gun in front of Kinnaman's face whilst forcing him to drive, and not enough time developing our characters and creating anything worth rooting for. The movie plays on it's mystery theme by not letting us know why Cage's villain 'The Passenger' has chosen Kinnaman's baby-expecting 'The Driver' as his target, but as the plot starts to slowly unravel, it becomes less and less interesting. The movie thinks we care about why Cage is doing what he does, but by the end we don't, as it's extremely lacklustre. The writing struggles to keep up with it's incredible set-up, as something that looks so suave and hires great stars loses momentum fairly fast. If it developed it's characters just a touch further, and ensured it's reveal was a touch more interesting, we'd have something truly great.
Luckily, around the halfway point when our characters enter the diner, the action is dialled up and it takes our attention away from the weak writing. Cage becomes more unhinged, Kinnaman becomes more terrified and dangered, and our villain takes no prisoners as he goes out of his way to get what he wants. If you switch your brain off and try just having some fun with it's craziness, Sympathy For the Devil may just make for an entertaining watch. It has a killer soundtrack, stunning neon visuals and action aplenty. The mystery element is a let-down as once we figure out what's going on, it loses steam. It's a strong directorial effort from Yuval Adler, and the star power gives it edge, but it's actually pretty run-of-the-mill once the credits roll.