Fun-ish, but forgettable.
The H-Bomb: Master thief Will Montgomery (Nicolas Cage) is pulling a late night heist in New Orleans with his crew, including hothead Vincent (Josh Lucas) and the sultry Riley (Malin Akerman). It’s a ten million dollar job, the big retirement score for all involved. Everything seems to be going smoothly, but there’s just one teeny, tiny problem; the FBI, led by dogged agent Harlend (Danny Huston, rocking a Popeye Doyle porkpie hat), are lying in wait, ready to take Will and his team down. The feds make their move, things go terribly awry, and while the members of Will’s crew manage to escape, he himself is captured and sent away for eight years.
Upon his release, Will decides he’s going to go on the straight and narrow and leave his life of crime behind him for good. His first order of business is to try and reconnect with his teenage daughter, Alison (Sami Gayle) who he hasn’t seen since he was incarcerated. When he approaches her, he finds, much to his surprise and no one else’s, that she wants nothing to do with him or the stuffed animal he brought her. This disappointment, unfortunately, is soon going to be the very least of Will’s problems, as he is about to be contacted by his old associate, Vincent.
The years have not been kind to Vincent, as he now has a steel leg, due to something that happened during the heist, and is now driving a cab in order to make ends meet. He pretty much blames Will for how his life went to shit, and now that Will’s out of prison, Vincent figures it’s high time he collect his cut of the ten million that he thinks Will had stashed away before his capture. Only trouble is, Will didn’t stash the cash, he burned it to avoid a longer prison sentence, so there is no money to divide.
Understandably, Vincent has been hobbling around on a peg-leg for eight years and isn’t interested in Will’s excuses. So, pushed to desperate measures, he kidnaps Alison and sticks her in the trunk of his cab, then tells Will he has twelve hours to come up with the money, or else… Will knows what this psycho Vincent is capable of, and that if he ever wants to see his daughter again, he’ll have to put a big score together, and fast. As if that in and of itself isn’t difficult enough, he’ll have to pull it off under the watchful eye of his old FBI buddy, Harlend, all while the city of New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras in the streets.
Before I get into my thoughts on Stolen, I should mention that aside from the title, and the basic premise of the lead character’s teenage daughter being kidnapped, this movie has jack diddly-dick to do with Taken. I’m aware that much has been said to the contrary, but trust me on this, the two films couldn’t be more different. While Taken was a surprisingly solid and stylized action flick, Stolen is much more of a routine, formulaic time killer, with a rather lazy, clichĂ© ridden script, filled to the brim with one dimensional characters and reasonably absurd plot turns.
All that said, Stolen is not a bad film… well, not entirely. Sure, it is stupid as hell at times, but at a scant 96 minutes, the movie clips along at a brisk pace, features a somewhat inspired car chase through the crowded streets of New Orleans, and a handful of decent performances from its game cast.
Cage, who will pretty much do anything that’s sent his way these days, plays Will with a sense of conviction that actually got me to care about him as a character. Even though Cage, for financial reasons, has to whore himself out and take whatever he can get, I have yet to see him phone in a performance. Even in the stinkiest of stinkers, I can see that the guy is always trying, and here, like I said, he made me feel Will’s desperation and got me invested in him, even though the lame brained script seemed to be trying to do the exact opposite.
Another performer who manages to rise above the muck of this flimsy material is Lucas, who chews the scenery with psychotic glee as the unhinged Vincent. Looking like a deranged hippie who hasn’t bathed in about six years, Lucas brings a crazy-eyed intensity to the role that made him legitimately scary, with a real rage simmering under his scruffy surface. He truly gives a much better performance than this flick deserves.Â As for other cast members, Huston does okay, but is more or less wasted as the cliched antagonistic cop character, as is Akerman, in an underwritten role as Will’s other old accomplice who comes to his aid late in the story.
Speaking of the story, you may have noticed I’ve taken some potshots at David Guggenheim’s screenplay, and with reason, because when it isn’t simply being a bland thriller that’s generic in the extreme, it’s just downright dumb, such as the contrived sequence when Alison gets away from her kidnapper and comes upon a large crowd of Mardi Gras party goers, only to get recaptured again because they all had their backs to her and couldn’t hear her cries for help. Then we’re supposed to swallow the notion that Will could actually plan and execute a multimillion dollar robbery in the span of a couple of hours. Poppycock. Pure, unbelievable poppycock.
Sometimes, with a script this lacking, a talented director can come along and give it a little extra oomph, like Brad Anderson with The Call. Sadly, Stolen is saddled with Simon West, of Con Air and Tomb Raider fame, a director I’ve always regarded as a hack, and his work here has done little to sway my opinion of him. It’s not that he does a bad job, per se, it’s just that aside from the car chase I’ve already mentioned, the action scenes are rather flat and unremarkable… kind of like the film itself.
And that really sums up how I feel about Stolen as a whole, it was watchable, even enjoyable in spots. But overall, it’s just incredibly meh. It made no dent whatsoever at the box office, and it doesn’t take a mastermind, criminal or otherwise, to understand why. Aside from a couple of stellar turns by Cage and Lucas, it’s a pretty mediocre flick that, unless you’re some kind of Nic Cage superfan, just isn’t really worth going out of your way to see. Although, thanks to the fine folks at Netflix, you don’t have to go out of your way to see it, as it is available via streaming, so if you are a Cage fan, or a connoisseur of dopey, goofy thrillers, then by all means, give it a go, you won’t be sorry… hell, in all likelihood, you won’t even remember it the day after you see it.