The Retirement Plan review: Nicolas Cage comes out of retirement in a wig

Nicolas Cage as Matt in The Retirement Plan.
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The Retirement Plan sees Nicolas Cage play a retired assassin forced back into action when his estranged daughter runs into trouble. 

The star of writer/director Tim Brown’s action-comedy The Retirement Plan is undoubtedly Nicolas Cage. Playing a former assassin-turned drunk beach bum and sporting a ridiculous grey wig, he must protect his estranged granddaughter Sarah when she turns up on his doorstep and informs him that her mother is in trouble. What could go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, The Retirement Plan is all about things going wrong. Sarah and her mother Ashley (Ashley Green) become wanted by dangerous gangsters when Sarah’s dad steals a hard drive full of mysterious and important information. That heist (the aftermath of which opens the film) goes horribly wrong and starts a bit of a domino effect. Sarah is shipped off to the Caymen Islands to find Matt, while Donnie (a perhaps-too-sweary Jackie Earle Haley) kidnaps Ashley. When he sends men out to find Sarah and the hard drive they presume she has, their efforts don’t exactly go smoothly either, as they soon find out that Matt is much more deadly than he appears.

Brown’s last film, the Australia-set family film Buckley’s Chance, featured Bill Nighy in the lead role. Here the director doubles down on the strategy of casting famous faces in his indie film. Aside from Cage, who’s enough of a draw by himself, Ron Perlman is in this as Bobo, Donnie’s top lieutenant. Ernie Hudson also makes a brief appearance as one of Matt’s old colleagues.

Unfortunately, their performances are pretty uniformly hampered by their characters being reductive stereotypes. Cage gets a few amusing lines (and his Hawaiian shirts are great) but otherwise doesn’t get much to work with. He mostly growls out his lines and pretends to be much older than he is – his character is meant to be at least ten years older than the actor.

Perlman manages to look cool in the tropical heat with his suit and sunglasses. His rapport with the young Thalia Campbell (who plays Sarah) is also a highlight. Other than that, though, he and the other gangsters are thinly written. The Retirement Plan comes across as being written by someone who’s seen many gangster movies, and their overall impression is that gangsters swear a lot. And a lot of swearing ensues when their plans keep getting foiled.

The way in which Cage’s Matt deals with them would usually be pretty graphic. Unfortunately, it seems that not much of the budget was reserved for stunt work or effects. In an age where action films increasingly have the camera hang back and observe the well choreographed violence, it’s a bit frustrating when it gets deliberately obscured. There are a few select scenes that show nasty wounds being inflicted, but a lot of those shots are cut away from. We often only see the aftermath of what’s happened. The Retirement Plan also suffers from bad guys falling over dead in a comically slow fashion. In fact, all of its action feels a bit on the slow side.

Often the film’s story is generic and repetitive. That’s something that could be forgiven if the performances were big and the action exciting. Ultimately, though, The Retirement Plan feels like it wastes the talent involved. And when Cage is one of them? Well…

The Retirement Plan is released on digital platforms on 29th September.

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