A remote Nicolas Cage doesn’t help the melodramatic ‘Vengeance: A Love Story’

Any time you hear a movie character say, “I know a shortcut,” and it involves walking through the woods in the dark of night, there’s a strong likelihood that nothing good can come of it.

Still, one isn’t quite prepared for the melodramatic dross that is “Vengeance: A Love Story,” a ham-handed crime thriller starring as a Niagara Falls police detective who moonlights as a mournful vigilante after justice isn’t served for a young woman (Anna Hutchison) who is gang-raped in front of her 12-year-old daughter (Talitha Bateman).

Although there would seem to be sufficient evidence to convict the gang of degenerate scum who carried out the brutal Fourth of July attack, a smarmy defense lawyer (Don Johnson) proceeds to flip the script on the understandably traumatized victim.

Enter Cage, a lone wolf of a Gulf War vet in a perpetual PTSD-laced funk who refuses to wait for the legal system to mete out an appropriate punishment.

Despite Cage’s paycheck-driven output over much of the past decade, expectations for this film (which was not available for advance screening) were still slightly higher than normal since it was based on a Joyce Carol Oates novel (“Rape: A Love Story”) and adapted by “House of Cards” writer-producer John Mankiewicz.

But any hope of prestige is dashed by the heavy-handed, cliché-ridden direction of former stuntman Johnny Martin and his star’s detached portrayal of a guy whose mind is permanently elsewhere.

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‘Vengeance: A Love Story’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; also on VOD

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