Paul Schrader doesn’t want you to see this slow but strangely compelling CIA thriller – which is odd, because he wrote and directed it. Originally penned as a vehicle for Harrison Ford to be directed by ‘Drive’ helmer Nicolas Winding Refn, the script reverted to Schrader after Ford pulled out, reportedly concerned by the downbeat ending.
It now stars Nicolas Cage as Evan Lake, a CIA operative diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of Alzheimer’s, who uses his forced retirement as an excuse to go after his old enemy, Islamic terrorist Banir (Alexander Karim), now dying of anaemia in a Mombasa garret. Recut by the studio against Schrader’s wishes – the motive for his public plea for audiences to stay away – the film is uneven but consistently watchable, closer in tone to John Le Carré than Jason Bourne, at least until a forced guns-blazing finale.
The script scores sly points off recent CIA scandals – Schrader’s talent for blunt-force irony is in full effect here – and the central conceit of two washed-up, heavily medicated warriors on a vengeance trip is convincingly played and unexpectedly poetic