British action veteran Simon West and Nic Cage have teamed up for the first time since their 1997 monster hit, Con Air, for Stolen: a unashamed B-movie that willfully draws comparisons with Luc Besson's inexplicably successful Taken films. The film follows notorious bank robber, Will "Gum" Montgomery (Nicolas Cage), who after being cornered with $10,000,000 from a botched heist, burns the money in the hope of receiving a reduced prison sentence. Unfortunately for "Gum", when he is released 8 years later with the intention of going straight and patching up his relationship with his estranged daughter, Alison (Sami Gayle), his past very quickly comes back to haunt him as his embittered former partner, Vincent (Josh Lucas) returns, hungry for his share of the money. Vincent, posing as a New Orleans cab driver, kidnaps young Alison and Gum, unable to go to the police, must frantically search the city for his daughter before it's too late.
So far, so derivative, but there is one unavoidable gaping chasm in a plot that is has more holes than Donald Trump's golf course. The narrative rests on the fact that the FBI completely ignore the reporting of the kidnapping of a teenage girl, because the man drawing it to their attention has a criminal record; a contrivance that is so cartoonish and entirely implausible that it dilutes any sense of real threat. The script and direction are riddled with genre clichés, predictable misdirection and hammy techno-dialogue such as "The blouse is off, I'm undoing the bra strap now". But for all it's faults, there is something strangely engaging about the lightning-fast pacing, Nic Cage's histrionics, and the unadulterated bizarreness of Stolen. Scenes in which Cage speaks Swedish to avoid eavesdroppers, Josh Lucas stomps around his 'bad-guy den' and token blonde, Malin Akerman bamboozles the cops with cigarette smoking dummy in the passenger seat, all serve to remind us that, above all, B-movies are supposed to be fun.
There are a wealth of problems with Stolen; whether it's the grainy aesthetic that screams "straight to DVD', the dated soundtrack that sounds like a 1990's video game, the terrible script, or Josh Lucas' spectacularly over-the-top acting, but there is something in its stubbornness to elevate itself beyond its pulp framework that is admirable. Stolen lies firmly in the guilty pleasure category, and will definitely be more at home on the small screen with a few frosty ones.
Although it's not the greatest accolade, the heavily flawed Stolen is the best of both West and Cage's recent output. It's an unashamedly generic B-movie with enough pulpy dialogue, histrionics and machismo to make it good company for 90 minutes on a Friday night in, but most importantly, it has a sense of fun.