The movie  was based on a book no one ever read by an author who committed suicide two weeks after his book was optioned to be made for the big screen. But Hollywood loves underdog stories, and “Leaving Las Vegas” was one of the biggest of the mid-1990s.

The film is also heightened by an incredible lounge-lizard score composed by Figgis himself, along with some classic jazz songs performed by Sting, which give you that crummy-dive-bar feel.

 Cage’s Ben  moves from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, where the bars never close and drinking outside is sanctioned. After he meets a kindred spirit in a prostitute named Sera (Elisabeth Shue), his life suddenly has promise, though he’s too driven to ruin it to take notice.

Ben and Sera go out on the Strip and decide to gamble. Completely plastered, Ben is at the blackjack table with Sera. Figgis mounts the camera up in the rafters, giving us the feeling of snooping (possibly a practical choice, since Figgis has said that he shot the film with very few permits). A waitress asks if they want another drink. Ben first says no, then—almost as if realizing he cannot pass up a drink even when he doesn’t want one—tells her he does. Then he goes into a blind rage, breaking glasses, pushing people, and turning over the blackjack table. Security finally shows up and we can make out Ben yelling, “I am his father!”

The film “Leaving Las Vegas” earned Cage the Best Actor Oscar at the 68th Academy Awards in 1996 (Shue was nominated for Best Actress). Though he would excel in movies like “Adaptation,” “World Trade Center,” and “Joe” after the Oscar win, it’s Cage’s over-the-top performances in B-movies (“The Wicker Man,” “Ghost Rider”) that now come to mind for most. Things have been worse for Figgis and Shue, as the film turned out to be the peak in both of their careers. And time has not been as kind as it should to “Leaving Las Vegas”—the only place you can currently stream it is on iTunes.

Elisabeth Shue Twitter