Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicolas Cage, Anton Yelchin, Alexander Karim, Irène Jacob, Aymen Hamdouchi, Claudius Peters, Adetomiwa Edun
Written by: Paul Schrader
Directed by: Paul Schrader
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 94
Date: 12/05/2014

Dying of the Light (2014)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Forget & Unforgive

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker Paul Schrader, who wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and directed American Gigolo, Affliction, and Auto Focus, seems to be struggling in today's movie industry. According to reports, his cut of Dying of the Light was taken from him, and this version is heavily edited, scored and mixed, without his approval. What remains is not exactly terrible, but it's also not particularly sharp or fresh, and not really worthy of a filmmaker of Schrader's reputation.

Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage) is a model CIA agent, in charge of giving an inspirational speech to new recruits each year. But he's also obsessed with tracking down the terrorist (Alexander Karim) who held him hostage and deformed his ear 22 years earlier. Finally, a lead, involving experimental medicine for the sick terrorist, surfaces. To follow it, Evan and a junior agent (Anton Yelchin) prepare to travel to Romania and then to Kenya, with Evan posing as a doctor. Unfortunately, Evan has been recently diagnosed with an irreversible, fatal form of dementia, and he finds that his memories are slowly slipping away.

Though his character's diagnosis involves irrational behavior, Nicolas Cage's performance still comes across as a bit too unhinged. Anton Yelchin is a nice compliment to him, but his role seems gratuitous. Many of the plot details seem like stretches of logic and of the imagination, though many moments are quietly effective. Schrader's films are usually thoughtful examinations of obsession, and his own director's cut might have been great, but it's impossible to determine much from this released version.

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