On the way to the hospital where his pregnant wife is giving birth, the Driver (Joel Kinnaman, who is credited as “Driver,” though his name is stated as David Chamberlin multiple times) is hijacked by a twitchy, wild-eyed man (Cage) with fire-red hair, a sparkly red suit, and a large gun, and forced to drive around the Las Vegas suburbs.
Sympathy for the Devil aims to be tense and mysterious as David tries to figure out what the hell is going on, get back to the birth of his child, and generally survive this encounter. Is this a random carjacking? Is this fate? Is this a case of mistaken identity? Is the Passenger actually the Devil? (Which then begs the question, is Satan from Southie?) The script plays coy with the details, but the truth becomes painfully obvious from the jump—David has a past he’s hiding, and it finally caught up with him—and you see the “twist” coming well ahead of time.
Kinnaman does a serviceable job as an everyman coping with insane situation, and he, as usual, does solid work. Cage, however, is the main attraction, hands down, and he is absolutely untethered. The filmmakers clearly allowed him to do whatever the hell he wanted, and when he lets loose, it is a spectacle of the highest order as he shimmies and pelvic thrusts his way through a seedy diner.
But honestly, as much fun as he has, there are moments where even Cage seems bored by the movie he’s in. For all the bells and whistles—the plot hits all the markers as the prescribed times—Sympathy for the Devil never whips up any interest. Director Yuval Adler assembled a nice-looking film. It’s slick and confident, and a few curious musical choices that don’t mesh with the surrounding tone aside, it’s a well put together film. There’s just not much substance or anything particularly compelling beyond watching a manic Nicolas Cage. Sometimes that’s enough, but this isn’t one of those times. [Grade: C]