REVIEW: The Wicker Man (2006)

Written and directed by Neil LaBute, this re-imagining of the 1973 cult classic follows Nicolas Cage as Detective Edward Malus who is in pursuit of a missing girl, which leads him to the elusive island known as Summersisle where the mystery goes even deeper.

In my antecedent post, I sung some praises for Nicolas Cage with Vampire’s Kiss, but this week I’m showing no mercy with The Wicker Man. This is one of the most belligerent cinematic endeavours I’ve ever witnessed.

Within this movie, there are two movies at work – a remake of the Robin Hardy film and a stand-alone mystery thriller. As a simulacrum of the former, it is embarrassingly insulting to its roots as the vehement commentary on religion is nowhere in sight.

On its own, this movie features some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen. The directing feels so slovenly, the dialogue is meme-worthy, and the overall composition of scenes and tone never once felt consistent. Despite being a first-class failure, this version of The Wicker Man is engagingly hilarious. Nicolas Cage’s character is allergic to bees, and there came a point where he nears a hive farm; rather than trying to escape the bees by going back the way he came from, he makes a genius move by running deeper.

Edward Malus is without question the most incompetent policeman I have ever seen in a movie. Cage’s performance exudes idiocy. It’s the kind of idiocy that can easily entertain but can also destroy any chance of it being taken seriously. Then again, with this script, Daniel Day Lewis wouldn’t have been able to save this.

What is this version of The Wicker Man about, exactly? Bees, gender division, bike travelling, hitting people in a bear costume, and how not to be a policeman. The plot is so poorly stitched together and Malus’s penchant for impaired investigation skills will have you rolling your eyes at every turn. This island has no phone signal, yet somehow has a website?

And this deceased little girl that Cage keeps hallucinating from the start of the movie? this has nothing to do with the story. He comes to the island, he’s greeted by a few of the townspeople, and he can clearly see two men carrying a body bag. His response? “What’s in the bag? A shark or something?” Great intuition there.

The Wicker Man is a never-ending surmounting of problems. It’s a painfully facetious experience that never properly adheres to its potential. But if you want to see that potential explored, you’ll be right at home with the original. This remake is astringently unscary, negligently directed, unintentionally hilarious.

This is easily one of Cage’s worst performances and it’s up there among the worst films of his filmography. I recommend it only for its comedic value, but other than that it is to be avoided.

Written by Seán Mac G.

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