I live in the bustling Richard Scarry-esque small town of “Los Angeles,” so imagine my delight when a thriving metropolis 40 miles away in the middle of nowhere saw fit to project this talking picture show! Though this limited release was a very bad sign for poor Stolen, I was in for an even bigger surprise: Stolen isn’t as laugh-out-loud miserably bad as I expected it to be, which was confusing. (If I can’t hate something, what sort of feeling am I supposed to have?) The poster and trailer don’t look particularly enticing, mostly because it appears to be some kind of low-rent Taken rip-off. But the action stands, the performances are engaging and there’s plenty to enjoy, overall.
Nicolas Cage plays a thief with one too many jobs behind him, he and his team (Josh Lucas and Malin Akerman) are in for one last heist when the cops swoop in and cart Cage off to jail, though everyone else escapes. Fast forward eight years, he’s a free man and looking to connect with his young daughter (Sami Gayle). When she’s abducted unexpectedly by a former friend looking to settle the score, Cage must attempt to convince the FBI (Danny Huston) to help him, failing that, he has only 12 hours to get his former partner $10 million dollars and set his daughter free.
Veteran director Simon West sets the film in New Orleans during Mardi Gras for a reason, and utilizes the city remarkably well, stirring up startling imagery at times and playing upon sound very inventively in a few key scenes. The action sequences are gripping and enjoyable as the property damage skyrockets and cars are bashed and tossed aside as Cage rampages through the city, relentlessly seeking his daughter. There’s quite a few chase scenes that are actually intense, as Lucas attempts to keep Cage cornered and Cage fights back while evading the FBI as well.
There’s a few bleary moments of staunch over-acting, (GIF creators be aware: Nicolas Cage kisses his cell phone at one point with a big smacking noise!) and a strange number of references to Creedence Clearwater Revival, yet Cage manages to avoid the creepy overtones that have become all too commonplace in his work of recent years — there’s only a few brief moments that seem out of place, the rest of the time he’s on track and focused on the fast-paced action. Josh Lucas as a ruined sociopathic bad guy is a pretty fantastic choice, I must admit, but his long stringy blond hair is ridiculous at best. (For added mental fun, just imagine that this is a continuation of his role in Sweet Home Alabama.) Danny Huston dons a rather unfortunate hat for the majority of the film, as if the costumer was standing around muttering “By God, someone’s going to wear a hat,” and he happened to step into the wrong trailer. Deplorable chapeau aside, Huston still manages to exude charm and presence, much the same way he commands the screen in the criminally under-seen but exceptional Birth. As the only adult female character in the entire film, Malin Akerman is a good-looking girl who manages not to be painted as outrageously, offensively stupid, and even Sami Gayle takes a fine turn as the grumpy teenage daughter hell bent on survival, makin’ her old man proud.
The movie is a bit preposterous, sure, but it never devolves into pure nonsense, instead succeeding on performance, action and visual elements. It’s a little hokey, but who cares? There’s a few other films that exist on the same plane as Stolen, films such as Sahara, robust action films with just a hint of brains and a few laughs sprinkled throughout. The kind of movie that almost everyone can agree on — high art they are not, but there’s something pleasing about them, just the same.