Before I launch into a review of Nicolas Cage’s latest film A Score To Settle, please remember that I am a pretty big Cage fan. Nothing he can do is absolutely wrong in my eyes, and even though it has its flaws, A Score To Settle is recommended (with a few caveats).
Directed by Shawn Ku (Beautiful Boy), A Score To Settle has a ton of ambition behind its crime drama narrative, as the feature is a hybrid of several different genres. Along with my aforementioned love for Nicolas Cage, I also dug the revenge/action elements of the feature. The heart of A Score To Settle lies in its focus on family and redemption, and those aspects didn’t deliver a knockout punch.
Frankie Carver (Cage) has spent 19 years in the slammer after taking a dive for his boss Max (Dave Kenneth MacKinnon). Max was a hothead who didn’t mind exacting violence with a baseball bat, and when Frankie takes the rap he will also be well compensated for time served.
Though he has just been released from prison, Frankie’s freedom is going to be short-lived thanks to his failing health (he’s dying). With a short window left in the world, Frank tries his best to bond with his estranged son Joey (Noah Le Gros). With a healthy stash of money gifted by his boss, Frank splurges some of his cash on a nice hotel where he and his now adult son can catch up on old times.
Joey gradually warms up to his dad and even encourages him to go for a prostitute named Simone (Karolina Wydra). Dear old dad’s been out of action (literally) for years, and maybe it’s time for Frankie to indulge in a few vices after years of nothing.
Even with his son in tow and a woman to catch his eye, Frankie is also focused on revenge against his former crime brothers who did him wrong. After meeting up with his old colleague Q (Benjamin Bratt) at a bar (Q’s the proprietor), Frankie is looking to find the crooks on his hit list and settle the score (hence the film’s moniker).
Credit goes to Shawn Ku and screenwriter John Stuart Newman for attempting to seamlessly blend family melodrama with a pure revenge flick (there is also an added layer that I’m not going to spoil). Although the film’s main concentration lies in the father and son bond (as well as Frankie’s quest for closure), that is not A Score To Settle’s strongest aspects.
The unadulterated B-movie elements, where we witness Nicolas Cage go absolutely bats**t on his various perpetrators and his predicament, is absolutely fun to watch (any movie that features Cage go off the rails is worthy in my book). One sequence, where Frankie deals with a pimp while also having a bellhop looking up senior care facilities in the vicinity, is executed with glee and verve. There’s also an obvious Con Air call back which is pretty awesome and, last but not least, watching Cage play piano and sing the Judy Garland staple “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” while Bratt looks on is, at least in my book, sublime.
The scenes with Bratt and Cage, as their characters respectively bemoan the inevitability of time marching on, are among the many moments I’ll remember from A Score To Settle. Though Le Gros is absolutely fine as Frankie’s son, the family aspect of the film, at least from my vantage point, just didn’t resonate.
A Score To Settle’s heart is in the right place, and I understand why the filmmakers wanted to bring a more human element to the proceedings at hand. There are times, however, when a pure B-action movie is warranted, and A Score To Settle could have fully committed to that route and “scored” an even bigger win in my eyes.
Still, there’s enough meat on the bone to warrant a recommendation to see A Score To Settle, especially if Cage simply floats your boat. He’s absolutely unhinged and heartbreaking in this feature, and his performance is a huge reason to give this worthy flick a chance.
Special features on the Blu-ray include several featurettes (“Story,” “Character,” “On The Set,” and “Sins of the Father”) that detail the making of the movie. “Sins of the Father” comes with a spoiler warning before the segment starts, and that’s definitely appreciated.
Rating: 3 out of 5
A Score To Settle Blu-ray was provided by RLJE Films.