Movie Review: Nic Cage Breaks Through the ‘Looking Glass’

Movie Review: Nic Cage Breaks Through the ‘Looking Glass’

A married couple looking for a new start after the death of their young daughter purchase (what else?) a deserted freeway motel frequented by truckers and prostitutes in Looking Glass, a new thriller starring the overworked Nicolas Cage and the under-utilized Robin Tunney. 

Ray (Cage) quickly discovers things might not be all they seem when he shows up to set up shop and discovers the previous owner has disappeared, leaving only a key under the might and a good luck note. 

Digging deeper into his new property, Ray discovers a secret tunnel in the maintenance room that leads to a corridor and a one-way mirror looking into room #10 - where he can watch the motel’s only guests, a sex-addicted trucker (Ernie Lively, father of Blake) and a lesbian dominatrix (Kassia Conway) - both of whom always insist on the same room. 

Soon there’s a dead pig in the swimming pool, strange happenings at the gas station across the street, and stories about a mysterious death at the motel some months back. Meanwhile, a local cop (Marc Blucas) keeps popping up to ask questions about the previous owner. 

From a script by Jerry Rapp and Matthew Wilder, Looking Glass has all the makings of a sleazy low-rent thriller but none of the conviction: there’s no nudity and little violence throughout the film, despite the obvious suggestions of lurid goings-on. 

Instead, director Tim Hunter injects the movie with a kind of offbeat aura that verges on humor: the kind of tone that David Lynch is known for. It’s no accident: Hunter made the ‘80s classic River’s Edge, and later worked with Lynch on Twin Peaks

Every conversation is stilted and awkward, a highlight coming during a conversation between Cage and Blucas that repeats the same line no less than ten times (“Did you do it?” “Did I do what?”) and threatens to become the new version of The Wicker Man’s “How did it burn?!”

Cage’s performance uneasily merges grief with surliness, and barely resonates while the character actors that surround him steal away the film; Bill Bolender, as the paranoid former owner who would seem more comfortable in a tin foil hat, is a standout. 

Tunney, star of ‘90s thrillers like The Craft and Vertical Limit, has only fleetingly been seen on the big screen over the last decade, during which she’s starred on TV in The Mentalist. She’s a charismatic presence here and a more relatable character than Cage’s oddball lead, and I wish the script gave her more to do. 

Looking Glass never amounts to much, and the perfunctory conclusion seems to leave a whole lotta loose ends. But there’s a strange fascination that surrounds much of the film that kept me interested, if never fully engaged, bolstered by by proficient work behind the camera that includes a Drive-influenced synth score by Kristin Gundred and Mark Adler (whose credits include Blue Velvet). 

Among star Nicolas Cage’s most recent work, which includes films like Arsenal and The Humanity Bureau, Looking Glass may not be great - or even good - but it isn’t without interest.

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