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‘Sympathy For The Devil’ Is A Cage-Raged Character-Driven Ride

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This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, Sympathy For The Devil being covered here wouldn’t exist.

In “SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL”, an unnamed Las Vegas man known as the driver (Joel Kinnaman) takes his son to be looked after by the boy’s grandmother so that the man can join his wife in the hospital for the birth of their new baby. However, In the parking garage, another man (Nicolas Cage) climbs into the man’s car, threatens him with a gun, and tells him to start driving. The driver tries to assess how much danger he’s in and whether he’ll be able to get back to his wife after driving the passenger to his destination. He also keeps his eyes open for possible ways to escape. But the more they drive, the more the passenger seems to have some kind of agenda. He stalls and plays mind games, and it soon becomes apparent that the passenger has targeted the driver for a reason.

“Sympathy for the Devil” is a neon-infused hypnotic tour de force led by the enigmatic Nicolas Cage. Directed by Yuval Adler (The Operative (2019), The Secrets We Keep (2020)) and written by Luke Paradise, this film takes audiences on a rollercoaster cat-and-mouse ride through the neon-lit streets of Las Vegas, weaving a tale of suspense, eccentricity, and dark humour. The screenplay cleverly balances tension with over-the-top moments of dialogue including the driver panicly interrupting the passenger one too many times.

Signature Entertainment

Character-driven in more ways than one “Sympathy for the Devil” features incredible performances from both of the film’s stars Nicolas Cage and Joel Kinnaman. Cage’s unhinged performance of the Passenger, a devilishly enigmatic character with flaming red hair and an aura of unpredictability, is simply captivating. His character dances on the precipice between madness and genius, drawing viewers into a whirlpool of uncertainty. Nicholas Cage is fast becoming one of the most interesting actors in Hollywood with a string of kooky roles and working with directors across multiple genres. His eclectic and eccentric output has included stand-out roles in movies such as Pig, Willy’s Wonderland, and Prisoners of the Ghostland all released back in 2021. Then he played himself in 2022’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent which was a hilarious tongue-in-cheek meta-action comedy, and now in 2023 which has already seen Cage as a grizzled gunslinger in a Western The Old Way and the Prince of Darkness himself in comedy horror Renfield where he became Dracula. Now Cage is a gun-wielding loose cannon and the ultimate Passenger From Hell.

From the moment he enters the frame, Cage commands attention with his magnetic presence and masterful execution, establishing himself truly as a cinematic chameleon that seethes and hisses at every turn. His performance is full of weirdness and wild emotion, as in a monologue about a childhood nightmare about “the Mucus Man” who keeps boogers in a suitcase, or the outrage his character displays once a facial injury takes him from “100% sex” all the way down to a mere 50%.

Joel Kinnaman, meanwhile, also delivers a captivating performance as David Chamberlain (The Driver), a seemingly ordinary factory worker plunged into a nightmarish ordeal. The Driver begs The Passenger to spare him: He’s a family man, please just let him go back to the hospital, it’s an emergency, etc. However, the Passenger doesn’t care. They keep going, out of the city and into the desert. From there, most of the film is a two-hander taking place inside the confines of The Driver’s car. Kinnaman, best known for his roles on The Killing, Altered Carbon as well as in the Suicide Squad movies, holds his own. As The Driver Kinnaman is a bundle of nerves desperately trying to work out what the manic man who has forced him to leave his wife and unborn child could want.

Signature Entertainment

For most of their journey together, it’s unclear exactly why Cage’s Passenger chose Kinnaman’s Driver as the target for all of his unbridled rage and psychological attacks. Paradise’s script includes a handful of early clues and hints, however, all of which suggest that there may be actual history between Sympathy for the Devil’s two leads as director Yuval Adler and screenwriter Luke Paradise keep up the mystery to the very end, including what’s up with David. 

The main set piece is a diner scene in which the two stop to get something to eat while the passenger is still holding a gun in his pocket. Cage orders a tuna melt that’s accompanied by a soundtrack that is both original and otherwise amazing combining a disjointed and unnerving score with a series of fitting songs heard on the car radio and throughout the film’s environments, Cage sings along to Alicia Bridges’ disco classic “I Love the Nightlife”.

Final Thoughts

Overall “Sympathy for the Devil” embraces the absurd as the Passenger guides David through the labyrinthine of his own psyche, the film switches between moments of chilling tension and unexpected bursts of laughter. Whilst the film’s narrative is rooted in the crime thriller genre, it also plays with supernatural elements, hinting at a world beyond the mundane. Yet the film remains true to its commitment to exploring the dark elements of human nature. Thanks to the Passenger’s diabolical charm, “Sympathy for the Devil” invites viewers to question their perception of good and evil. The film ultimately Toys with the viewer throughout as it asks you who is the real devil and who do you actually end up having sympathy for. It’s an unforgettable thrill ride of revenge.

Signature Entertainment presents Sympathy for the Devil on Digital Platforms 8th September

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HORROR

The Exorcism | Official Trailer

A troubled actor begins to unravel while shooting a horror film. His estranged daughter wonders if he’s slipping back into his past addictions or if there’s something more sinister at play.

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Speak No Evil | Official Trailer

A family invited to spend a weekend in an idyllic country house, goes from a dream vacation to a psychological nightmare.

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Speak no Evil [credit: Universal Pictures]

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