There are all kinds of theories about Nicolas Cage's acting style, usually centred on whether he has insane hair or not (he usually does). But the fact is that every now and then, in between those ridiculously over-the-top performances he's known for (such as in the Ghost Rider movies or the similar Drive Angry), he surprises his audience with a subtle bit of genuinely great acting.

Nicolas Cage JoeNicolas Cage in 'Joe'

He is an Oscar winner, after all, deservedly taking home the top prize for his astounding performance in Leaving Las Vegas (1995) after a series of alternately nutty and/or charming turns in movies like Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Raising Arizona (1987), Moonstruck (1987), Vampire's Kiss (1988), Wild at Heart (1990) and Honeymoon in Vegas (1992).

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Since 1995 his career seems to have split into separate strands. There's the action hero of The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, the National Treasure movies; the brooding protagonist in Snake Eyes, Bringing Out the Dead, World Trade Center, The Frozen Ground; and the one big star in forgettable, anonymously titled thrillers like Next, Knowing, Justice, Trespass, Stolen, Rage. He's also willing to risk-(and usually lose) everything in movies like The Family Man, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Windtalkers, Matchstick Men, Lord of War and most notoriously the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man. 

More: Read our 'Joe' review

But every now and then he shocks audiences with a genuinely resonant performance that seems to dig much deeper. His Oscar-nominated postmodern turn in Spike Jonze's Adaptation (2002) is simply astonishing. In Werner Herzog's outrageous 2009 thriller Bad Lieutenant, he managed to show some serious depth beneath his usual gonzo scene-chewing. And in 2010's Kick-Ass he stole the show by cleverly riffing on his own persona. With this year's Joe, he gets the chance to properly reinvent himself as a gritty actor. Hey, it worked for Matthew McConaughey with 2012's Mud, a similar drama that also costars the hugely talented Tye Sheridan. Perhaps there's a second Oscar in Cage's future after all.