Dying of the Light begins with CIA agent Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage) being beaten up and tortured by a terrorist called Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim) while he’d rather the shoe was on the other foot… or, at least, thrown at Banir, since he wouldn’t like that.
Fast forward 22 years, to the present day, and he’s still frustrated that he couldn’t close the book on that particular case and that there were elements of it still left open-ended. Then, colleague Milton Schultz (Anton Yelchin) comes across a lead on the case, as a positive search has come up for the drugs Decitabine and Azacitidine, which have only been used in chemical trials for the blood disorder Thalassemia, something from which Banir suffers. (Hurrah!)
At the same time, Lake has been told that he has a terminal illness (Boo!) fronto-temporal dementia – much more aggressive than Alzheimer’s Disease, and may make him subject to overreactions or inappropriate reactions, and mood swings – so, basically, the way that Nicolas Cage has acted throughout his entire career!
Evan Lake has let himself go to seed over the years, hence Cage himself has had to put on a few extra pounds so he’s a little podgy all over – you never normally see him like that. Unfortunately, that’s about all that sets it apart from the portion of films from our lead actor which are entirely forgettable. in fact, a good Nicolas Cage film is getting increasingly difficult to find these days, and this film has some double-crossing here and there, as you’d expect, but unfortunately ends up being too plodding for the majority of its running time, as everyone gets themselves too tongue-tied with medical mumbo jumbo rather than concentrating on an engaging plot.
But despite this film coming to us, seemingly, from the director of the incredible Taxi Driver, unfortunately, it’s not the film he planned to make.
On October 16th, Paul Schrader wrote on his Facebook page: “We lost the battle. Dying of the Light (2014), a film I wrote and directed, was taken away from me, re-edited, scored and mixed without my input. Yesterday Grindstone (a division of Lionsgate) released the poster and the trailer.”
In addition, he posted photos of himself, Nicolas Cage, Anton Yelchin and Nicolas Winding Refn – who was originally slated to direct it and instead stayed on as an executive producer – wearing black T-shirts printed with the terms of the non-disparagement clause they had signed with the film’s production company, Grindstone Entertainment Group. Paul Schrader added: “Here we are, Nick Cage, Anton Yelchin, Nic Refn and myself, wearing our ‘non-disparagement’ T shirts. The non-disparagement clause in an artist’s contract gives the owners of the film the right to sue the artist should the owner deem anything the artist has said about the film to be ‘derogatory.’ I have no comment on the film or others connected with the picture.”
Thus, the two leads, the director and the executive producer all have disowned this version of the film and told the audience to stay away… and I can’t recommend it in its current form for you either, since it’s just not worth your time or your money. Maybe one day we’ll see a director’s cut of this film, but for now, we only have the studio version.
Not even the lovely Irène Jacob can save this, and based on what’s on display, she’s not in it a great deal anyway.
About the only great thing I can say about Dying of the Light is that the studio allowed the film to go ahead with an uncut 18-cert release, as the BBFC website confirms, whereas too many studios prefer to cut from an uncut 18-cert down to a tamed 15-cert, as in the recent cases of The Equalizer and A Walk Among The Tombstones. And, in fact, while some of the 18-cert-worthy content is down to some slightly gory scenes, if I’d had to guess at the certificate after watching it, I would’ve thought it a 15.
However, if someone suggests going to see this at the cinema, then, as Dylan Thomas, who would’ve been 100 this year, said (and from where this film takes its title): “Rage, rage… against the dying of the light…”
Running time: 94 minutes
Released: January 2nd 2015
Format: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (2.8K))
Director: Paul Schrader
Producers: Scott Clayton, David Grovic, Gary A Hirsch and Todd Williams
Screenplay: Paul Schrader
Music: Frederik Wiedmann
Evan Lake: Nicolas Cage
Milton Schultz: Anton Yelchin
Muhammad Banir: Alexander Karim
Michelle Zuberain: Irène Jacob
Aasim: Aymen Hamdouchi
Ghedi: Claudius Peters
Mbui: Adetomiwa Edun
James Clifton: Robert G Slade
Dr. Wangari: Derek Ezenagu
Dr. Clayborne: Geff Francis
Mike Warner: Tim Silano
Dr. Sanjar: Silas Carson
Dr. Cornel: Serban Celea
Deacon: David Lipper
Abdi Abikarim: Arsha Aghdasi
Serban: Sharif Sharbek
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.