Somewhere inside director Steven Miller’s Southern Fury is a genuinely good movie. In the film, (known as Arsenal in the US), Mikey (Johnathon Schaech), an ex-convict languishing in uncertainty and bad decisions, is kidnapped by local mobster Eddie King (Nicolas Cage). His brother, JP (Adrian Grenier), is a reasonably successful entrepreneur, who must step out of his comfort zone to rescue Mikey with help from friend detective Sal (John Cusack).
The first act is surprisingly well made and has some profound moments. Kelton DuMont and Zachary Legendre, who play the younger versions of JP and Mikey respectively, manage to convey a subtle but nuanced fraternal relationship amidst an impoverished and highly dysfunctional upbringing. Flash-forward 20-odd years, the brothers have taken widely divergent paths and at several points the aspects of brotherhood are handled quite masterfully. For some time, Southern Fury excels at being not just another action film, but taps into sincere dramatic and candid moments.
Ultimately, the picture loses a lot of the tension and appeal established in the first act. To tackle the big elephant in the room: Nicolas Cage’s more recent movies have tarnished him with accusations of over-the-top, cringeworthy acting. But he undoubtedly can deliver some fantastic performances. Unfortunately, this is not one of them: saying Cage overacts as mobster Eddie King is probably an understatement, and that’s not even factoring in the ridiculous haircut and false nose the character is given. Perhaps that’s all intended: seeing Cage’s “nouveau shamanic” acting style (his own descriptor) is probably an appeal rather than a deterrent. However, watching Nicolas Cage being Nicolas Cage is not enough to redeem Southern Fury. As the film progresses, the plot tries to devour as many genre clichés as possible. Subplots regarding other minor characters we have no reason to care about are introduced to presumably “up the stakes”, and the story goes down several inane narrative paths that all require huge suspensions of logic. This ends up dragging Southern Fury down into a messy and eye-rolling affair.
Moreover, gratuitous stylised violence is to be expected in an action film, but the overindulgence of slow motion shots reduces the enjoyment and leads to highly unsatisfying and anti-climactic action. The relationship between Grenier and Schaech has several promising elements, but, sadly, the hammy performances, gore and Nicolas Cage aren’t enough to make this a great picture.
Southern Fury is released in select cinemas on February 24th 2017.
Watch the trailer for Southern Fury here: