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Tokarev-2014Released: 2014

Directed By: Paco Cabezas

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Danny Glover

Reviewed By: Rohan Morbey

Watching Nicolas Cage in Tokarev, having recently watched him in David Gordon Green’s excellent Joe just a few weeks apart, reminds me of a line from Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III; “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”. The difference being Cage’s decision to make utter rubbish like Tokarev isn’t a matter of potential life and death, it’s just exceptionally poor judgement from an actor who has shown us he still knows a good script when one lands on his desk.

Tokarev is the definition of what used to be called ‘straight to video’ and seeing Nicolas Cage headlining such garbage is as upsetting as it gets (as far as feeling sorry for a multimillionaire actor can be). Of all of Cage’s run of eight woefully sub-par movies, starting from 2011’s Season of the Witch with only The Frozen Ground and Joe being at least halfway decent, this is the only one which has zero cinematic qualities and looks like it was shot by a man without a shred of talent for directing. Even the terrible Stolen, directed by Con Air’s Simon West, tried to deliver big thrills even if it failed every time but Tokarev doesn’t even try anything resembling originality.

For the first time I think Cage has delivered a truly awful performance and that is hard to acknowledge, believe me. We know no one can touch him when he’s on the top of his game and that’s what still draws me in to watch his films, but in Tokarev he’s a man without any direction just let loose to do what he wants with a character whose backstory and development could be written on a pinhead. He’s screaming, crying, looking ‘moody’ and even attempting to be romantic in rapid succession but he never convinces.

He looks so utterly uninterested (as do Danny Glover and Peter Stormare) that he could fall asleep standing at any given moment and, moreover, he looks out of shape for an action role where he’s punching, kicking, and chasing down bad guys. He’s 50 years old and looks perfectly fine for his age but not for this role, which is highlighted in one chase scene which cuts away every time just before he has to accelerate. It’s a role worthy and story worthy of Steven Segal, not Nicolas Cage, one of the best actors of his generation.

I’ve not yet touched on the story because it’s a point of contention. The story is about a man (Cage) with a very shady past who has gone legitimate but when his daughter is found dead with a single shot to the head from a Russian handgun (the titular Tokarev model); he assumes someone from his past is out for revenge for something he and his friends did decades before so he sets out to find her killer. This is all very dull and it’s executed without any skill and with dialogue which is simply awful at times, but if you stick around until the end (and if you switch off way before then I wouldn’t have blamed you) there is a genuinely good twist and the film offers, just for a few minutes, something resembling an interesting concept.

Of course this is far, far too late (because the credits roll just moments after), but what actually happened to his daughter and all the consequences of his former life and his quick temptation to solve all problems with a gun or knife could have made for a great film, if it were not for the previous 70 minutes of Taken-style action. And any film which tries to emulate the already poor Taken is in for trouble.

The ending alone saves Tokarev from being a total disaster because I respect the twist and how it could have made for an interesting film if all the other issues were addressed as well. There are simply too many problems for this to ever be recommended, so I’ll say just to watch Joe instead and let’s all hold hands, hope, and pray that his upcoming partnership with screenwriting legend Paul Schrader in The Dying of the Light delivers and Tokarev can be forgotten.

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