07th Aug2023

Fantasia 2023: ‘Sympathy For the Devil’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Joel Kinnaman, Kaiwi Lyman | Written by Luke Paradise | Directed by Yuval Adler

Well, my friends… Another day, another Nicholas Cage movie. I seriously don’t know why I do it to myself, but every time I see a Cage movie appear, well I just can’t help myself. I have to watch them just to see just how Nicolas Cage this Nicolas Cage movie could be. Does anyone else have this unhealthy obsession… No? Just me? Oh right.

Sympathy for the Devil tells the story of The Driver (Joel Kinnaman). Tonight The Driver should be with his wife, she is in the hospital giving birth. While parking up at the hospital he is joined by a mysterious man known only as The Passenger (Nicholas Cage). The Driver soon realises he hasn’t been mistaken for an Uber and The Passenger has something nefarious planned for the night ahead. Who is the Passenger? What does he want with the Driver? Is it the Driver he wants? And why exactly does Nic Cage have red hair?

Not knowing a thing about this flick having not seen so much as a trailer. I couldn’t exactly set my expectations based on that and had to go into this one only knowing that Nic Cage is a bonafide wildcard as far as actors go these days and that Joel Kinnaman has properly stepped up his game this last few years, shaking off that generic band of actors I had him nestled in for some time.

I have to hand it to director Yuval Adler; through some pretty inspired casting, he has turned a story that while pretty intriguing could have been a dull affair and turned it into an edge-of-your-seat thriller that delivers on almost every level. Thanks primarily to two actors that compliment each other so unbelievably well.

Cage as The Passenger is dialled up to 11 and loving every minute. He does get the bulk of the meaty dialogue and performs it like he is in some Shakespearean tragedy. I feel like this was the only way he could have gone because the situation is pretty absurd, his motivations while uncertain are kind of off the map yet understandable. This for me was a return to form for Cage. His performance is balanced out by a levelled strong performance from Kinnaman.

I don’t think I can get across just how nuanced this role was for Kinnaman, a man with a past that even he has convinced himself wasn’t what it was. A man so conflicted that he is certain of his punishment.. yet a man nonetheless, who just wants to be at the birth of his child. The big moments of this movie (and Intentionally so, I presume) are just when our two leads are verbally jousting in the car and both delivering in such a way it makes the other step it up a gear.

Don’t get me wrong, while both the leads are superb. Well the movie itself does get a bit messy, a touch lost in itself at times and seems to be aiming for maximum style over substance, which is strange because the substance is engaging so a little extra time on that aspect and this flick would be just that little bit extra.

I think folks will get into Sympathy for the Devil, even if it’s only to have a little chuckle at Cage going into 6th gear. I would definitely recommend the movie as probably a one watch. it’s a quick watch that doesn’t disappoint as long as you set reasonable expectations but if you are sitting down to a film like this these days, you should be well aware of what you’re in for.

***½  3.5/5

Sympathy for the Devil screened as part of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.


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