At some point during the filming of the heist thriller “Stolen,” in which he plays an FBI agent chasing an elusive master thief (Nicolas Cage), Danny Huston must have said “Waaaaaillll shoo’. I’m-o wear me this heyah porkpie hat from heyah on out. See if I don’t, Cher.”
Kind of goes with the accent he seems to acquire the longer his character, Agent Harlend, stays on the case. Huston tries his hand at New Orleans folksy. His assistant is inept. How inept?
“Couldn’t find a couch in a livin’ room.”
His advice to the lovelorn Will Montgomery (Cage)?
“Like my Granny Harlend said, ‘Love makes time pass. But time is certain to make LOVE pass.’ ”
Words to live by. If only Huston had committed to this chatty, drawling take on the guy from the get-go. But that’s a problem the whole movie suffers from, a lack of commitment.
Cage, so manic and out there, even in this long run of bad movies he’s been in, doesn’t hurl himself at this shot-in-his-hometown tale. And his “Con Air” director, Simon West, can’t settle on a tone that works for this story of a thief who gets out of jail only to have his teen daughter kidnapped by a former associate (Josh Lucas).
It’s hard to be serious, even in a bloody movie like this one, with all the little Big Easy touches the film has. And it’s hard to be flip and funny when there’s an underage teenage girl (Sami Gayle) locked in the trunk of a New Orleans taxi with time running out.
The script puts Will into a stolen police cruiser, a taxi and a few pickup trucks. When they run out of streets to chase him on, he sprints across the roofs of cars in city traffic. It’s Mardi Gras. Everything is at a standstill.
Which is a good way to describe “Stolen” itself. For all the heists, chases and shoot-outs, it’s a sluggish picture. Characters feel the need to stop the action to explain themselves. Thoroughly.
Lucas, giving his villain the plummy locutions of a New Orleans “character,” has to tell us why he swiped the girl and how he faked his death. In detail. Will has to explain to his kid why he went to prison. Harlend has to unload bromides, aphorisms and the like to his subordinates.
Malin Akerman, playing the robbery gang’s onetime driver, has to speak Swedish.
“Stolen” is all over the place, never quite managing the sense of urgency the story suggests, never mastering the lifestyle tempo that the setting and dialect promise.
And Cage, so reliably over the top in so many of the films he’s done in the past five years? He seems a little winded, and lost.
The only thing over-the-top here is Huston’s porkpie hat. It’s a shame he didn’t buy everybody else one.