Imagine being constantly drunk. The only time when’re you’re not drinking, well, it’s when you’re sleeping. Ben Sanderson is up to that point. From the early morning to late at night, he’s boozing. That’s his life. But can a body hold up all that alcohol. Mmm, not really, so Ben’s on his way down, all shaky and confused. But, man, he doesn’t care. In fact, he wants to die… to drink himself to death. Why is he so desperate. We never really know. He did somehow lose his family, he’s broke and unemployed, but then… It’s just details, and that brings him to Las Vegas.
Mike Figgis is the man behind this brilliant film. He wrote and directed it, and he even composed the music. It’s quite an unusual picture. It has a film noir feel by moments, then it’s filled with Vegas colors and strong visuals. There’s a certain jazz mood in the air, and you feel that it ain’t just a straightforward story. It’s about a certain feeling or something, the tale of a man on his downfall. But it’s more than this. In fact, it’s really a love story. You know, ain’t it odd how most of the love stories that come out are romantic comedies? What’s so funny ’bout love anyway? This film understand the drama of love. You’ve got Ben the drunk, and Sera, the… hooker. Okay, the whore with a heart of gold, right, but she’s also more than that cliché. Her life has been rough, and she’s also on her way down, but unlike Ben, there is still some hope. Meeting Ben helps her, a lot. Finally, she can be good for someone. For that desperate guy, she’s an angel. Together, maybe they’re up to something, who knows. Caring for him is kind of like her redemption.
Rarely are films that achieved. Figgis doesn’t follow the rules. He’s constantly experienting with the medium. The visuals are striking. Every shot is interesting, every scene is riveting. Combined to the jazzy musicm the effect is astonishing. But more than anything, the heart of the film is in the performances. Elisabeth Shue plays Sera, and she really comes out as an angel. Remember, she is a hooker, and she has many rough scenes, but Shue achieves to keep her character deeply human and good. It’s an exceptionnal performance. She could have hold the film by herself, but that ain’t considering her opposite, Nicolas Cage. He’s truly one of the most gifted actors of his generation. Who can play so convincily a jerk, a drunk, a weirdo, a loser, an action hero… This is probably the most impressive performance of his carrer. His character is drunk as hell during the whole film, so even when he’s happy, his body is against him. Cage acts that out uncannily. And when he has a crisis, he’s scary real. And so is the film. It totally moved me over. It’s extremely well written, directed and acted, breath-taking all the way. Definitively a masterpiece.