Nicolas Cage has turned in so many over-the-top performances over the years that when he tries to dial things back, like he does in A Score to Settle, a gritty by-the-numbers revenge flick, it's hard to take him seriously. As a result,A Score to Settle struggles to become the compelling drama it aspires to be.
The film opens at AMC Solon on Friday and arrives on Video on Demand on the same day.
The movie opens in the middle of things with a torture scene. A group of goons pummel a guy into a bloody mess while an operatic tune plays on a portable boom box. Frankie (Cage) takes the fall for the man's death and winds up in the can for 19 years.
Because Frankie suffers from a fatal ailment that makes his vision blurry and forces him to stumble around in a half-baked daze as he witnesses flashbacks that make it difficult for him to distinguish what's real and what's imagined, the state has decided to release him early from prison. Yes, it's a pretty flimsy premise.
Frankie immediately digs up his secret stash of cash and tries to reconnect with his son Joey (Noah Le Gros), a recovering drug addict. To impress Joey, he buys an expensive watch and a fast car, and, against Joey's wishes, he tries to track down the men for whom he took the fall because they didn't live up to their end of the deal and watch over his wife and child while he was doing hard time.
The scenes with Frankie and Joey don't work particularly well here. Cage tries too hard to come off as a repentant father, and Le Gros doesn't successfully turn Joey into the sympathetic character he's meant to be.
In one particularly awkward scene that might or might not be designed to be comedic, Frankie tries to get his old pal Q (Benjamin Bratt) to help him track everyone down, carrying on the conversation with the man while sitting at a piano and singing an off-key rendition of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows." If this were a campy action flick, that'd be fine, but A Score to Settle isn't poking fun at the revenge movie, so it seems out of place.
By the end of this forgettable movie, you really don't care whether or not Frankie succeeds in getting payback against the guys who let him rot in jail. It's too bad. Cage has a good track record of starring in cult classics, but he doesn't deliver here.