With the recent explosion of Mandy on social media and the big screen, the cult of Nic Cage has been given new life. With these “Rage Cage” flicks, it just makes sense to give the actor a character and a rough plot, and let him loose. Between Worlds fails its audiences on all fronts. It assumes that Cage is enough to carry this shell of a story and it assumes that we won’t notice how hollow and nonsensical the film is overall.
Between Worlds starts with Cage as Joe, a hard-luck truck driver. Joe is at a truck stop somewhere (anywhere, really) taking pulls off his flask and talking on the phone with someone (anyone, really) to whom he owes money. When he heads to the bathroom and sees Julie (Franka Potente) being choked by a big burly guy, he jumps into his “nice guy” role to save her. Her reaction is less than appreciative, and in her confused state she ends up getting a ride with Joe into town. Through an extended exposition scene during this ride, we learn why she’s acting so oddly and where she’s heading.
Julie’s daughter, Billie (Penelope Mitchell), has been in a serious motorcycle accident and the mother is rushing to be by the girl’s side. Motherly love is part of her urgency, but she has supernatural motives as well. You see, Julie can traverse the space between the worlds of the living and the world of the dead when she’s being choked. This is what Joe interrupted in the gas station, not an assault nor exploration of erotic asphyxiation. Her plan is to get to the hospital, have someone wring her neck, and make sure that Billie’s spirit doesn’t cross to the other side.
At first, all of this goes according to plan. Julie makes it to Billie’s bedside while she’s still alive. And Joe, being the standup guy that he is, obliges his new friend by choking her. The problem, however, comes from the fact that Julie somehow brings back the spirit of Joe’s dead wife, not Billie. This is what starts our plot chugging along in the direction of ethical gray areas and plenty of mind/body confusion.
If the sheer amount of screen time devoted to rote explanation isn’t frustrating enough, the fact that all of these beautiful women start throwing themselves at deadbeat Joe should be enough to raise your blood pressure. Joe acts like a swell guy on occasion, but when it comes down to it he is far from a catch. He’s broke and owes everybody money. Judging from his delays in finishing his delivery, he must not be very good at his job either. The guy also drinks like a fish and looks like he hasn’t taken a shower or done any personal grooming since Obama was in office. Why would Julie be so instantly enamored with him?
If Between Worlds explored the mental trauma Julie has endured as a reason to make such terrible life choices, this might be excusable. But it doesn’t. It merely presents Joe as God’s gift to women and assumes that the audience will buy it.
The even bigger frustration I have with Between Worlds is that, at its core, it’s a novel idea for a film. Crossing between the worlds of the living and dead is a concept that could populate any number of captivating and nuanced movies, but Between Worlds is not one of them.