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Nicolas Cage is one of the most watchable actors of his generation. Part of the famous Coppola dynasty, Cage’s performances on screen have ranged from the extraordinary to the ludicrous and everything in between. A veteran of nearly 100 films, Cage’s role choices and approach to performance seem to reflect his wild and crazy life.
An Oscar winner for a mesmerising performance as Ben Sanderson in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas—an alcoholic dying from his addiction. In the same year, he appeared in the unnecessary and underwhelming remake of Kiss of Death, a film meant to launch David Caruso from his television fame. In NYPD Blue, Cage played Little Junior Brown, a psychotic gangster. It was a wonderfully over the top display.
For every classic film and great performance—Leaving Las Vegas, Con Air, The Rock, Moonstruck—there has been the other side of Cage’s appearances—The Wicker Man (remake), Honeymoon In Vegas, Kiss of Death—but still, Cage keeps going.
Known for his extravagant lifestyle and choices, Cage, as wild and crazy as he is portrayed in the media, continues to work prolifically, with eight films currently in production or post-production.
One of his latest offerings is the Netflix film, Between Worlds. Cage plays Joe, a hard-drinking truck driver who has lost his wife and daughter in a fire. He has a chance encounter with Julie (Franka Potente) whilst, it turns out mistakenly, he rescues her from an attempted sexual assault.
Julie tells him that she asked the man to choke her. When Julie gets choked and is near death, she can see spirits. She wanted to be choked because her daughter Billie (Penelope Mitchell) had been in a motorcycle accident and was in a coma in hospital. Joe takes her to the hospital to see her Billie.
Julie, wanting to guide her daughter back to her body, asks Joe to choke her again. Whilst in limbo, Julie sees her daughter briefly and sees the nurse, Astrid (Gwendolyn Mulamba) looking at her. Shortly afterward, Billie wakes up but she is different. Astrid warns Julie to watch her.
Joe gets together with Julie and, with the rest of his life going to pot, moves in with her. When Billie gets out of the hospital, it seems she is attracted to Joe. Joe rejects her advances.
When Julie goes to Joe’s ex-employer to retrieve some of his personal mementoes, Billie pounces. Billie tells Joe that she is actually, Mary, his ex-wife. She had taken over Billie’s body when Julie came to call her daughter back from the afterlife. Billie/Mary’s knowledge of Joe’s life convinces him that it is his wife and he gets together with her.
Julie catches them together and confronts Joe. He tells her it is Mary. Julie, not knowing what else to do, goes and sees Astrid. Astrid tells her there is nothing she can do, as she should not have interfered in the first place. Julie returns home and is knocked unconscious by Billie/Mary.
Joe and Billie/Mary leave and go to Mike (Garrett Clayton) and Rick’s (Hopper Penn) house, Billie’s druggie friends. There, with prompting from Billie/Mary, Joe knocks Mike out and accidentally kills Rick whilst struggling with him when he pulls a gun on him. They leave the house and go to their old home, where Mary and their daughter died.
Later, having regained consciousness, Mike goes looking for Joe and Billie/Mary. Julie explains to him that Billie has been possessed by Joe’s wife’s spirit. They work out that they have returned to their old home and go there to confront them.
During the confrontation, Mary confesses that she killed their daughter and wanted to kill him for leaving her alone. Joe, traumatised by this news, staggers off into another part of the house. Julie and Mary fight and Julie is shot. She dies taking Mary with her. Billie is back in her body.
Joe commits suicide by setting himself ablaze. Mike and Billie leave before the house goes up in flame. An epilogue shows a teenage Joe killing his drunken father. The end.
Okay. Produced, written, and directed by Maria Pulera, Between Worlds is an ambitious, if somewhat misguided, film. The premise is interesting and Penelope Mitchell is great as the off-kilter Billie turned Mary.
Franka Potente, best known for Run Lola, Run, is made to look poor with little help from a script and portraying a character in Julie that should find getting people to strangle her a lot more difficult than she does. Plus the casual nature in which she relates her necessity to be near death to see spirits is not believable at all.
Cage is lurching toward Wicker Man territory with this performance, though he only goes full Cage a few times. Once again, the script really does not serve him. At around ninety minutes, Pulera’s film is too short to execute the story she has fashioned or seemed to have in mind.
Whilst definitely not a horror film, Between Worlds is not quite a thriller either. Pulera’s directing is, to be honest, better than average. She works with space well and some of the framing and edits work really well. It’s just the damned script that lets it all down. It should have been more of a slow burner, had more backstory, just had more.
Between Worlds is not the worse film on Netflix. It is one of the more frustrating films though, as it is definitely a film and story that, with just a little more care, could have been good if not great.