Fantasia Festival: Sympathy For The Devil (2023)

Director: Yuval Adler

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Joel Kinnaman, Kaiwi Lyman, Nancy Good

With his wife in labour, father-to-be David (Joel Kinnaman) finds himself nervous considering they lost a previous baby due to complications. Arriving at the hospital, his nerves are replaced with fear when a mysterious passenger (Nicolas Cage) enters the car and forces David to drive at gunpoint. What unfolds is a high-stakes game of cat and mouse where it becomes clear that not everything is as it seems.

Working off a screenplay by Luke Paradise, director Yuval Adler brings alive a stylish bare-bones tale which drip-feeds information as the night goes on. Each further revelation offers a deeper look at the protagonists in this two-hander, and what was the inciting incident for this spiralling evening. If Coming Home in the Dark, A History of Violence, and Collateral were all put in a blender, this is what would come out.

As the family man thrust into a nightmare scenario, Kinnaman effectively conveys the character's shock as he wishes the situation to be over so he return to his wife's side. He remains adamant that he is just a family man, while the passenger is not interested in what he has to say. Rocking a red suit, red hair, and a devilish personality, Cage is electric as the wild-eyed passenger who relishes the destruction he inflicts. Approaching the night with a "burn it all down" mentality, he is ready to raise hell so long as he gets his pound of flesh.

What is the truth behind these circumstances? Is David not who he claims to be, or does the passenger desperately want David to be the man he has been searching for? From how the proceedings are presented, there are few surprises offered as to how matters will unfold or where things will go. There is a struggle to offer forward momentum until the expected point is reached, so the film cruises by on Cage's manic energy. It is material that has been done better elsewhere, yet it remains an effective story about the lies people tell themselves to make things easier.

Sympathy For The Devil previously played at Fantasia Fest 2023. It is had a U.S. Theatrical release, and is available on Digital Platforms in the UK from September 8th.