I’ve had a long, complicated relationship with Nicolas Cage, at first thinking he was an awful actor for a long time to finally — right around the time of The Wicker Man (2006) and Ghost Rider (2007) — figuring that he’s only doing all this bizarre scenery chewing just to amuse himself. If that was ever true and never just a hopeful theory on my part, I’d say it’s now dead with the release of Vic Armstrong’s Left Behind. I’m not sure why Cage is in this movie. I assume it’s money, though — judging by the production values — how much money these guys have to throw around is open the question. Whatever the sum, it’s not enough to truly get any eccentricity out of him (no patented Cage overacting, not even a goofy wig). Instead, we see an actor defeated, beaten down into normalcy for a movie that’s both unengaging and idiotic.
Based on Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind series, this film’s already been shot once starring Kirk Cameron, and while I’ve never seen any of the movies in that franchise (proof enough that there is a benevolent God), the trailer to the original seems to suggest a similar vibe to this one. Cage plays Rayford Steele, an airline pilot flying to London when, suddenly, the Christian rapture happens, swiftly teleporting numerous people to Heaven, leaving only their crumpled clothing behind. Suddenly, and for some weird reason — presumably because all cops and politicians are devoutly Christian — the world gets thrown into chaos, as people start looting shopping malls and riding around on dirtbikes stealing women’s purses. With all this happening on the ground, Rayford — an adulterer whose true believer wife (Lea Thompson) has been shot up into paradise — must get the plane he’s piloting to safety while also calming down his confused passengers. At the same time, his daughter Chloe (TV actress Cassi Thomson) is on the ground, trying to make sense of this newly chaotic world while, at the same time, helping out her dad.
The whole thing is a scare tactic (believe or be left in this world of lawlessness and free consumer goods!) that’s obviously illogical. If all the world’s Christians disappeared, that still leaves five billion people on Earth, scarcely believable enough to send the world face first into Thunderdome. This kind of scare-mongering might be worrisome if I had any hope of Left Behind being taken seriously by anyone. It’s simply too hokey and goofy to have any effect on the world. Director Vic Armstrong — who’s spent most of his life as a stuntman — has made exactly one other movie, something called Army of One a.k.a. Joshua Tree (1993) starring Dolph Lundgren — if its trailer is any indication — shooting people, blowing things up and being chased by cops through Joshua Tree National Park. The DNA of that film is on display here, with lots of dumb explosions and even some motorcycle action — all in line with the film’s basic cable budget vibe — to spice up what’s a fairly dull and extremely dunderheaded bit of weak religious propaganda. When Nicolas Cage doesn’t even have the wherewithal or sufficient interest to spice up your movie, you know things are rough. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, violence/peril and brief drug content.