Director Mike Figgis makes self-destruction downright romantic with this searing character drama that earned Nicolas Cage an Oscar for his portrayal of a Hollywood screenwriter who suddenly decides to drink himself to death — a process made not so much more complicated as more interesting when he meets a hooker with a heart of gold (Elisabeth Shue). Figgis’ self-conscious directing style sometimes makes the whole thing feel like a put-on, but Cage and Shue keep this dark fairy tale set, for the most part, in gritty (and sometimes glitzy) reality. Oddly enough, Hollywood responded to Cage’s Oscar win for his dramatic performance by turning him into an action hero — The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off were all hot on the heels of Vegas. Huh.
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