There are actors in the world who are deal-breakers for me. No matter the director or co-stars, their mere presence in a movie is enough of a mitigating factor to convince me not to see the film. Most of them are baby-booming schlocksters that fill the screen with self-importance and "charm". Most were fairly innocuous at first and became increasingly film-killing over time. Among them are Tom Hanks, John Travolta, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, and Nicolas Cage.
The case of Cage follows a path similar to the others. Early charming movies (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Valley Girl, The Outsiders, Rumblefish) established the actor as "likable". Critical notice is taken for some intermediate roles (Peggy Sue Got Married, Raising Arizona, Moonstruck). After those first notices there are periods of forgettable roles as the actor searches out characters. Then there will be "the seminal role" that truly establishes them as a star (Leaving Lost Vegas).
What seems to be a mix of self-importance, Hollywood buddyism, and "personal branding" then colludes to produce movies that are fully self-indulgent crapfests (Con Air, Face/Off, Snake Eyes, 8mm, Gone in Sixty Seconds). Before you know it you're box office poison (to me) with the occasional gem of a role (Adaptation) in no way compensating for the utter crap that is now associated with your name.
And then comes a film like Kick-Ass, which, seeing Cage's name, gave me misgivings. Avoided during opening weekend, time was given to see if this film was "awesome" or "Hollywood aWeSOm3". Turns out this little blockbuster with an Indy film feel is good enough to re-invent Mister Cage. The subtle quirk he brings to Damon Macready is not the expected overwrought overacting. Cage comes across as genuine, real, and even multi-layered.
Seriously, a film so good that it has me liking Nicolas Cage again and thinking back to the purer days of his early work? Can there possibly be a better review?