“Grand Isle” is the kind of film that, had it been made in the ’70s or ’80s, might have garnered a cult following.
Instead, it arrives on the doorstep of 2020, in a media landscape saturated with all manner of streaming options.
It’s hard to know if it even has a large audience now.
“Grand Isle” is part film noir, part southern gothic, two genres that have a lot in common. Set in the real town of Grand Isle, La. an angry, childless couple (Nicolas Cage and KaDee Strickland) play a dangerous game full of sex and violence during a hurricane.
The film opens with Kelsey Grammer’s character interrogating a man suspected of murder. The rest of the film opens in flashback. Grammer plays a bayou detective trying to piece together the bizarre situation that this young husband has found himself in.
By the time the cops find the young man he’s torn up, covered in blood and the most probable suspect for a murder. Revealing much more would spoil some of the fun to be had in this strange little film.
Cage is always great to watch, especially in so-bad-they’re-good fare like “Drive Angry,” but “Grand Isle” isn’t a bad film by any means. The script is solid, reminiscent of the classic “Key Largo.” And with talent like Grammer and Cage headlining there’s instant credibility.
— NicolasCageOnFire (@CageOnFire) November 14, 2019
To my knowledge Grammer has never played a deep Southern character before, and while he seems an odd choice for this he still manages to be his usual charming (if mirthless) self. Unfortunately neither of these iconic actors is the lead. The film is really about the murder suspect played by Luke Benward.
The actor is also fine throughout, a description which characterizes the film. Everything is just good enough. It’s a decent watch with a few twists and memorable scenes. At times it’s moving, and even disturbing.
There are tragic elements, too.
The couple’s childlessness plus Cage is playing a Lt. Dan style Vietnam vet longing for death with his fallen compatriots. But overall it’s too light, especially for its subject matter, to be very compelling.
I would only recommend this for diehard Cage or Grammer fans. They’re the main reason the film is watchable. Strickland’s performance feels both dangerous and sexy, but that leads to some bizarre tonal shifts. Her chemistry with Cage and Benward is palpable, but it’s unclear if that’s due to acting or just her considerable beauty.
If the film had fully embraced a genre, like horror or thriller, it would have been more satisfying. As is, there isn’t a clear audience for this movie. It’s decent late night fair when it arrives on your streaming service of choice.