Murder mysteries are among the most fundamental of stories, and Louisiana is one of its favorite venues. Grand Isle, directed by Stephen S. Campanelli and starring the prolific Nicolas Cage, echoes the spirit of a New Orleans murder mystery. Buddy (Luke Benward) is a young vet trying to clear himself of murder by recounting his experience with the Franklins (Cage & KaDee Strickland) to the old no-nonsense Detective Jones (Kelsey Grammer). Buddy takes on an odd job repairing a fence and ends up stranded by a hurricane in the house of the toxic Franklin couple who slowly reveal themselves to be far more than merely the worst hosts imaginable. It soon becomes apparent that the hurricane isn’t the only danger.
Nick Cage is certainly in his element as the villainous sort. He always seems to relish his portrayal of the darker characters most and this movie is no exception. But KaDee Strickland steals the spotlight of every scene she is in. She walks the tightrope of alluring and dangerous you cannot help but get drawn in and recoil at the same time. A femme fatale if there ever was one. I had never heard of her before now but will certainly be watching her career with great interest.
“Buddy takes on an odd job…and ends up stranded by a hurricane in the house of the toxic Franklin couple…”
The editing is competently done, with one notable exception. There is an odd scene in the first act involving gunfire. Shots are fired, insults are slung, tensions are high; then it just cuts away to hours later, and all seems forgotten. It felt as though a scene was missing and really took me out of the movie for a moment. Though what I found even greater personal irritation was how long it takes Buddy to fix a five-foot section of white picket fence with tools and materials handy. But I concede that this is the gripe of a former construction worker and do not fault the film for it.
What I cannot forgive is the movie’s choice not to show the audience the grand sinister reveal that the entirety of the film has been hinting at and building towards — opting instead to have it narrated to us in the form of newscast announcement in the background. What should have been the most powerful beat of the film is relegated to bland exposition. Yet another example of how adherence to the rule of “show, don’t tell” would have elevated the viewing experience.
“…I enjoyed watching it, which already places it higher than most films out there…”
Least of all my grievances and in no way a serious jab, are the southern accents laid on by Cage and Grammer in particular. It may be that I am just so accustom to their real voices that any variation sound silly, but silly is most certainly how they sound. Not everyone can or should attempt a southern drawl, but it is certainly entertaining to hear them try.
Despite these shortcomings, the movie definitely succeeds more than it stumbles. I was invested with the plight of Buddy immediately and was held in suspense the entire time. Generally, I enjoyed watching it, which already places it higher than most films out there. If you are a fan of Nick Cage, his acting antics, or just need a new film for the evening, then this one is most certainly worth a watch.
"…Nick Cage is certainly in his element..."