Rick Santoro (Nicolas Cage) is your average all-American corrupted cop…he’s known as the man to go to if you have the money to get yourself out of trouble and believes that there is a price tag for every problem. Tonight he’s going to a big boxing match decked out in a pimpish gold suit, a cell phone in one pocket and a pack of cigarettes in the other. To add to the excitement of the day the Secretary of Defense is attending the fight and Santoro’s best friend, one Commander Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise) of the FBI, is the chief of security in charge of keeping the Secretary safe.
Everything goes as planned until Dunne follows a mysterious redhead away from the arena, a strange woman in a blonde wig takes Dunne’s ringside seat beside Santoro, and as all the audience is riveted on the fight as their champion goes down shots ring out. The Secretary of Defense falls back with a gaping wound in his throat, the mysterious woman who took over Dunne’s seat is shot in the arm and Santoro bears her to the floor and looks frantically for the source of the shots. Luckily when Dunne headed after the redhead he ended up mere feet from the shooter and was able to bring him down quickly…a known terrorist who, it is assumed, is striking aimlessly at the United States government.
So it would seem. However, Santoro noticed something that bothered him and after an interview with fighter Lincoln Tyler (Stan Shaw) confirms the worst…Tyler was paid off to take the hit and go down when a man in the front row said the right words, thus opening the way to the Secretary. Why is this worse? Now there are several people to look for, Santoro knows it’s not just a lone shooter out to kill the Secretary of Defense. Throughout the course of the action Santoro’s skills…and questionable integrity…will be tested to the maximum, and he just might not like the answers he gets as the investigation goes forward.
I chose this movie off of the list of those available on my movie channels for one reason…Gary Sinise. While I enjoy a lot of the movies Nicolas Cage is in it’s always a toss-up especially with the more recent ones, thus far I have never been disappointed with one of Sinise’s performances. I like action movies, if those movies can work a half-decent plot into them chances are I will love them, and with stars like these I figured there wasn’t a huge chance of going wrong.
For the first 2/3 of the movie I was right, I hadn’t gone wrong…the action heated up quickly and while a big part of the mystery is blown early on there’s still a lot of little pieces left to place. Sadly, the end was a bit of a let-down. I have a hard time letting just a part of the movie affect my overall rating of the entire film especially when I liked the rest of it so much, but the ending is a pretty important part; if it weren’t for that ending this would have been a solid five-star film, but I’ll get back to that.
Let me say for the record that Nicolas Cage plays an excellent a**hole (for lack of a better term) and that shows through very quickly in the film. I really like the way Cage portrays his character as Santoro advances from a cheap and sleazy Atlantic City cop into someone who realizes there just might be something more important to the bottom line than the dollar amount.
Sadly, I don’t feel that Sinise showed the progression of his character very well from an amiable and conscientious FBI agent into something a tad more sinister…but then again that could have been on purpose. After all, by the time Dunne got to the point this story opens on he would have had a pretty drastically different character from the one he shows everyone else and would probably shed his outward act pretty quickly if he no longer had to.
Aside from our two stars we also see performances from Carla Gugino (in a pretty decent performance if dimmed by the big names she plays alongside), John Heard, Kevin Dunn (not to be confused with our antagonist Kevin Dunne) and a minor role by Luis Guzman. Most of the secondary characters are pretty flat and the aforementioned actors probably have some of the better rounded-out characters (with the exception of Guzman) though I’ve found that that’s true more often than not in action and suspense films as the story line zooms in on the characters that are closest to the action.
I have to admit that the script left quite a bit to be desired…it’s easy enough to ignore it with some great actors dazzling you on-screen but near the end it becomes nearly impossible to ignore this particular shortcoming. I promised I’d get back to specifics on the ending and here it is…after an amazing buildup of adrenaline and a confrontation you know has to come and know has to be spectacular, you get a bum climax and a really choppy ending that just didn’t satisfy me one bit. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against a morbid ending (in fact I prefer it in most cases) but the way they got to it left a lot to be desired.
Overall this is an excellent action/drama movie (might move a little slow for the pure action junky) if you can get over the disappointment of how it ended. Some of the camera angles and panning were a little hard on my eyes but that may have been less the fault of the movie and more the fault of just having purchased an HD television a week ago and perhaps I just haven’t fully adjusted to the difference between it and my ten-year-old 27″ TV that I could barely see details on. I thought the acting of the main characters was excellent and certainly up to par compared to their past performances even if they did have a poor script to work with. I’m not sure if I’d see this entire film again but I’d certainly be willing to watch all but the last 20 minutes over and over.