Penned by Safe House writer David Guggenheim, Stolen opened a few weeks ago to a confusingly limited release (141 screens), boasting a befuddling marketing campaign which was ineffectively non-existent. The most I can remember seeing was a small web-site banner here and there, obviously inefficient by the lack of recollection.
But with Simon West coming off his smash-hit sequel The Expendables 2 and routine eccentric Nic Cage drawing hype no matter what film he takes, such an undeservedly small release is only made even more perplexing by a strong supporting cast including Josh Lucas, Malin Akerman, Danny Huston and newcomer Sami Gayle. I’m sure all parties involved are scratching their heads at the underutilized selling points and terrible promotion, as Stolen is an enjoyably delightful action film that magically appeared out of thin air.
Returning to familiar Con Air roots, Nic Cage is back in action as a father looking to reform his wicked ways, except this time the drama kicks in after he returns from jail. Attempting to do right by his estranged daughter Alison (Gayle), ex-criminal William “Gum” Montgomery spends 8 years in jail preparing himself for a fatherly role without the previous bad decisions in his life.
Instead, he’s forced to call upon the demons from his past as his daughter is kidnapped, the ransom only being attainable through more wrongdoings. West even adds a little throwback nod to a funny plot point from Con Air, intentional or not, keeping nostalgia out of the box – hint hint.
Now don’t get all overly excited at my calls for a larger outreach for West’s film, because it certainly won’t be considered an overnight classic. Guggenheim’s script is flawed and generally uninventive, but I commend West’s directorial prowess which keeps Stolen fun in an old-school type of manner, focusing on character performances and big budget heist scenarios.
Josh Lucas epitomizes such silly and old-school performances, jumping into a seedier and less clean-cut role than we’re used to seeing. Beyond that, his character is insane, physically stands out, and sticks in your head when compared to less quirky and more down to each criminals which we see time and time again.
Simple things like defined character traits and ridiculousness are details that evoke entertaining scenarios and put an emphasis on the positives action films can carry, yet we see so many bland attempts that never think to abandon normality and enter fantasy.
Now, I know the expectations that come along with a Nic Cage run action film, but his ongoing list of progressively stranger roles skips over Stolen. He actually stays pretty normal considering the circumstances, as his character plays the role of concerned father instead of money hungry thief. Don’t expect any over-acting from the only human who could double as a Looney Tunes character, surprising even this fan as the grounded William Montgomery.
Another strong point Stolen exhibits revolves around engaging heist scenes, which while admittedly use tactics we’ve seen before, are just flat-out cool. It’s the only way to describe those moments. Cool may not be super descriptive and surely isn’t comparable to terms like mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, or masterful, but it’s hard not having a great time watching Cage rob New Orleans blind with a colorful cast of characters. From professional gadgets to high-flying chase scenes, action certainly doesn’t take a back seat to anything else.
Danny Huston and Nicolas Cage share a fun dynamic as criminal vs. FBI agent as well, as Huston stays hot on Cage’s trail throughout the film. Displaying a visible amount of respect for the robber William Montgomery, the cat and mouse game our duo play yet again draw upon tired and clichéd action film plot points, but again Stolen takes something overused and delivers more entertaining screen time. Between FBI agent Tim Harlend (Huston) exchanging banter with partners about catching Gum while subtly hinting hesitation and the respected banter between Gum and Harlend, West showed a lovable little rivalry for audience members to enjoy.
To hammer home my resonating theme, Stolen is the action film we’ve seen over and over again, but still holds up as an entertaining overall experience. From the plot to relationships to visuals, no one single aspect stands out as a genre breaking moment, but through fun-focused delivery, West is able to succinctly create a rewarding action watch.
In no way does Simon West surpass the awesomeness overload that was The Expendables 2, but in no way did he deserve the bottom of the barrel treatment bestowed on Stolen either.
While the Nicolas Cage name recently has been connected to more bombs than successes, Stolen is a fun and underrated action film that avoids the Cage curse.