Nicolas Cage is a precious resource in the world of shitty movies. Looking at his filmography, he’s not a rare resource. But, how many Oscar-winners have devoted so much of the latter days of their careers to starring in absolute shit? Sure, there have been plenty of faded stars that showed up for a day’s filming and a check in the worst film has to offer (see Carradine, John), but Cage seems committed. He doesn’t just put in token appearances in bad movies. He stars in them. A LOT of them. His IMDb page lists 27 roles from 2010 through 2017, and the majority of them have been some real dogshit.
Sometimes, something happens with a big star that leads them down a weird path. I don’t know why Cage, who is a very talented actor, continues to star in films like The Humanity Bureau. I don’t know if he’s been blacklisted from big productions and he’s serving some sort of penance, or if he needs the money. Or maybe, just maybe, Nicolas Cage is a shitty movie fan. Maybe, after decades at the top, starring in shitty movies is Cage’s happy retirement. Maybe, for him, it’s a no-stress payday and some fun. No matter the reason, whether it be some dark Hollywood secret, or whether Cage just likes slumming it, we shitty movie fans benefit.
A Canadian flick from 2017, The Humanity Bureau follows Cage as Noah Kross, an agent with the, yep, Humanity Bureau. It’s the near future. The economy and environment have collapsed and the country is barely hanging on. The Bureau is tasked with performing audits on American citizens and determining if they are still productive members of society. In this dystopian vision of America’s future, from writer Dave Schultz and director Rob W. King, it is a crime to be a drag on the nation. As Kross explains to someone he’s auditing, “You must be a productive citizen. It is the law.”
So, what happens to people whom Kross determines are not productive? They get sent to New Eden, a supposed city where people can start anew with the promise of happiness and productivity. If this seems a little political, that’s because it is. This movie doesn’t shy away from the politics of the real world. It wades into them rather clumsily. This dystopian America seems to be the result of unchecked conservatism. There are no such things as entitlements in this world. There are productive people, and there are moochers. And moochers don’t deserve anyone’s help or respect. Kross’s job, where he interacts with actual people instead of statistics, means he is aware that the world isn’t that black and white. Times are tough and people are doing their best to get by. Not only is their government not interested in helping them, it’s rounding up citizens and forcibly relocating them. The more Kross finds out about New Eden, the less he likes the arrangement.
The story comes to a head when Kross, for reasons not revealed until late in the film, decides to help a mother, Rachell Weller (Sarah Lind), and her son, Lucas (Jakob Davies), flee the United States after they fail his audit. The film then becomes a chase flick, as Kross and company pile into his circa-1980 Chevy El Camino and flee from Kross’s boss, the evil Adam Westinghouse, played quite well by Hugh Dillon.
All of this sounds like a decent flick. And yes, this is not an incompetent film. King showed good pacing, and the cast was uniformly professional. More than anything else, it’s the poor production values and the ham-handed politics that fail the film. The CGI is among the worst 2017 had to offer. Being made for what looked like pennies, the location work is rural and repetitive, with the same area representing locations with vast amounts of distance between them. As for those ham-handed politics, one of the characters weighed in with, “It’s easier to build fear than build a wall.”
See how traumatic Donald Trump has been for the world? He has scared Canada into making a shitty movie about a collapsing United States. Well, it could have been worse. This is a close one, but Alien: Resurrection ekes out a victory over The Humanity Bureau on its production values alone.