Pacing the Cage (2014) – By Christian Nelson

“How can she sleep when she’s got a nose like a vacuum?”

Max Lyons finishes an 18 month stint in lock-up, but his real problem has just begun. He may be a stand-up guy, with his old friend Ziggy helping him out, and a blooming relationship with his neighbor Sara, but he still owes bad guy Lucius Jones a lot of money. Such is Pacing the Cage, from writer/director E. B. Hughes.

Location is king in this film. It’s a smaller production, but New York City still shines, and I was almost wishing for more exterior scenes. Hughes’ work brings back memories of the old Abel Ferrara flicks I used to scour the shelves of Blockbuster Video for.

What Pacing the Cage also has going for it is a solid main cast. Denny Bess as Max and Mark Borkowski as Lucius both have a commanding screen presence that stay with you long after the film is over. They’re performances set this story above most others. Though I wish I could say the same thing about some of the supporting actors. You’ll find various scenes that can be unintentionally awkward with other characters.

I’m impressed with the production value and the pacing (no pun intended), but the overall tone of the film leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. It’s at one moment quite gritty, and lighthearted the next, almost “family film” caliber. Pacing the Cage can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be. I’m also on the fence about the story itself. Bess and Borkowski more than deliver here, but there still isn’t anything that sets it apart from similar “crime, drugs, urban, anti-hero owes a lot of money” types of stories.

Despite its shortcomings, Pacing the Cage is the mark of some talented actors and filmmakers, and definitely worth a chance for those who lean towards independent productions.