This year alone, Nicolas Cage has played a deranged, child-hunting suburbanite in “Mom and Dad,” a grief-stricken, chainsaw-wielding Satanist-slayer in “Mandy,” and an angsty, Bogart-esque Spider-Man in “Into the Spider-Verse.” Yet Cage’s oddest 2018 movie may be “Between Worlds,” a freaky supernatural thriller/neo-noir hybrid that — blessedly — no one in the cast seems to have taken too seriously.
Cage plays Joe, a paunchy, hairy Southern truck driver, who spends his days trying to numb the pain of a tragic loss. At the start of the film, he meets Julie (Franka Potente), as she’s in the process of being strangled in a gas station bathroom.
It turns out Julie’s letting herself be choked, because she can communicate with the newly and near-dead when she’s on the verge of death herself. Soon, Julie’s trying to retrieve the spirit of her comatose daughter, Billie (Penelope Mitchell) … but accidentally revives Joe’s late wife, Mary (Lydia Hearst), instead.
Writer-director Maria Pulera aims for something with the comic grotesquerie of David Lynch — full of eccentric lowlifes and identity swapping — but a more straightforward plot. What she ends up with is ultimately too tame and under-thought.
Still, Cage goes as flat-out here as he did in Lynch’s “Wild at Heart,” playing a character who careens from indulgence to indulgence in a perpetual effort to regain the once-happy life he squandered. The actor’s fierce commitment turns “Between Worlds” into another solidly strange entry in the ever-expanding “Nicolas Cage movie” sub-genre.
Rating: R, for strong sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some violence
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood