|Nicolas Cage in a --what else? -- tense moment|
THE WICKER MAN (2006).Writer/ director: Neil LaBute. Based on a screenplay by Anthony Shaffer.
A cop named Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) gets a letter from an ex-fiancee, Willow (Kate Beahan) who tells him that her daughter, Rowan, is missing. He travels to an island in Washington where Willow lives and where she has joined an odd matriarchal and religious society that has an upcoming celebration. The islanders try to convince Malus that the missing child doesn't exist, and even Willow acts strangely, finally confessing that Rowan is also Malus' daughter. Malus fears that the girl is to be used in a horrifying ritual, but on that point he may be slightly mistaken ... This remake of the 1974 British cult film The Wicker Man transplants the action to the U.S. and for some reason does away with all the free-spirited sexuality of the islanders, even as there are some hints that this is essentially a Sapphic society, giving the film a [perhaps unwarranted] homophobic cast-- at one point Cage punches out a stereotypically butch female tavern owner. Instead of Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle, we get Ellen Burstyn as Sister Summerisle, and instead of people breaking out into song we get a lot of bees buzzing about a hero who's allergic to them [but somehow survives]. This version of The Wicker Man may be intriguing (as well as confusing) to viewers who've never seen the original film, as the basic storyline is still absorbing. LaBute has cooked up a more modern-type post script for the film. Cage is not bad, but this is not a "great" performance a la Edward Woodward's in the original. Paul Sarossy's cinematography is a plus.
Verdict: The perfect film version of this story has yet to be made, but the original is better. **1/2.