' ' Cinema Romantico: The Retirement Plan

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Retirement Plan

In “The Retirement Plan,” Nicolas Cage stars as Matt Robbins, or Jim Benton, either/or, or maybe neither, a one-time nebulous government operative, possibly assassin, exiled by his employers to the Cayman Islands, with stringy grey hair and an estranged daughter, Ashley (Ashley Greene). He’s John Mason, in other words, Sean Connery’s hero of “The Rock,” which co-starred Cage, and I wonder if that parallel intrigued the actor, his sixth credited movie of 2023, because I’m not sure what else drew Cage to this material, other than filming on location in the Caymans. Not that the Caymans themselves feel truly present, despite so much blue water in the background, as the $20 million budget of Tim Brown’s would-be action/adventure honestly feels half that, maybe one-fourth.

We first see Matt, or Jim, or Nic Cage passed out on a beach where he is woken by his granddaughter Sarah (Thalia Campbell), having been sent to the west Caribbean by her mother with a computer drive in tow that Ashley’s husband has taken from crime boss Donnie (Jackie Earle Haley) who answers to the bigger crime boss Hector Garcia (Grace Byers) who is in cahoots with Christopher (Rick Fox) which is more than half of it, maybe, but not quite all of it, not that any of it really matters. Despite a conclusion that wants to convey the American State has so much palace intrigue, this isn’t a paranoid thriller but a middling one. None of the action, and I mean none of the action, lands, lazily conceived and amateurishly staged, strictly straight to video streaming stuff despite having received a theatrical release. The tone is hardly better, sometimes striving for true darkness, like the unceremonious death of a hostage, so unconvincing as to feel stupidly cruel, and other times straining for screwball comedy, such as in a recurring customs agent bit, though both the editing and many of the performances struggle to evince the necessary snap, rendering the whole enterprise fatally flat.

Despite the presence of Cage, “The Retirement Plan” is oddly determined to turn the whole enterprise into an ensemble piece, introducing its myriad characters with freeze-frames while flashing their names across the screen, like this is a Guy Ritchie joint. Few of these characters as written or played, or both, are memorable, especially Greene, who the movie puts on screen constantly yet hardly seems to remember exists, as her entire performance is reduced to being panicked and/or flustered. If anyone leaves a mark it’s Ron Perlman, who gets more screen time with Matt, or Jim, or Nic Cage’s granddaughter than Cage does, effecting an unlikely big teddy bear air that could have built to something though even that fizzles in the name of ostensible surprise. When he’s on screen, Cage is at least committed, his Hawaiian shirt living out the notion suggested by one character that he’s inoculated to death. And if he did it for a Cayman vacation only, well, I can’t really blame him, but I can blame myself for having chosen this as the Cage movie of 2023 that I watched, better luck next year.

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