Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, John C. McGinley, Richard Roundtree and Kevin Spacey.
Written by Andrew Kevin Walker.
Directed by David Fincher.
A maniac is murdering people in accordance with the seven deadly sins. Somerset (Freeman) is a jaded detective on the brink of retirement who is joined by Mills (Pitt), a rookie eager to “do some good”. The two form an uneasy alliance to track down the murderer – a sinister soul known only as John Doe (a marvellous Spacey). When I walked out of the cinema after seeing Fincher’s Se7en, I can recall being shrouded in a black cloud. What the hell had I just witnessed? In hindsight, it’s easy to understand the power of this film and its subsequent influence. From the skin-crawling effect of the opening credits (which have since become almost a pre-requisite for any film of similar nature) to the uncompromising finale, the film managed to elicit a graphically violent motif without ever having to reveal much at all. Se7en is one dour film, but this production design and the accompanying incessant rainfall gave the film a look that felt far more noir than any noir could. Aside from all of this, the film afforded director Fincher (a) the attention he so obviously deserved; and (b) respect for standing up to the studio execs who wished for a happy Hollywood ending to this unforgiving tale.
Nicholas Cage, John Travolta, Alessandro Nivola, Colm Feore, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, Nick Cassavettes and Harve Presnell.
Written by Mike Werb & Michael Colleary.
Directed by John Woo.
An FBI agent named Sean Archer (Travolta) has his face surgically altered to be a dead ringer for a heinous terrorist named Castor Troy (Cage). The plan to infiltrate the terrorists’ gang of cronies goes swimmingly, until Troy decides to have his face altered as well, assuming the identity of Archer and threatening the lives of his family. This laughable film was a substantial hit, sucking in an audience drunk on the Pulp Fiction-inspired resurrection of Travolta. But they were soon sobering up to the fact that Travolta, like his previously faltered career, was grounding his new-found fame in this trash and others like Broken Arrow and Battlefield Earth. The ridiculous style of Asian golden boy John Woo was never more evident than in this unintentionally funny ‘action’ film. Woo’s unbearable penchant for slow-motion reduces the final reel of Face/Off to a truly horrendous ‘opera’ of gunfire (now referred to as “Gun-Fu”). It’s no wonder his career has been conspicuously minor since the mid-90s. Two years after his Academy Award-winning performance in Leaving Las Vegas, Face-Off also signified the initial decline in the quality of Cage’s work (the exception being Spike Jonze’s Adaptation in 2002). You’ll have more fun peeling your own face off than watching this crud.
Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino.
Written by Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese.
Directed by Martin Scorsese.
Ever since he could remember, Henry Hill (Liotta) wanted to be a gangster. Based on true events, GoodFellas charts the rise of Hill from teenage courier for local mafia captains to his eventual downfall at the hands of the FBI. Accompanying Hill on his violent journey are his psychotic friend, Tommy (Pesci) and Hill’s somewhat mentor, Jimmy (DeNiro). One of Scorsese’s finest films, GoodFellas ripped into the new decade with a bold statement on lives of crime. Powerfully acted (Pesci won an Oscar for his role) and directed (by a filmmaker in his prime), the film resonates with a voyeur quality that has rarely been matched (and perhaps only superseded by Scorsese’s own Raging Bull). From it’s graphically violent opening to its almost iconic final frame, GoodFellas is akin to a kick in the guts (or a cap in the ass), reinventing itself as the story progresses through each sensational act. Employing all the tricks of the trade that he had been honing since Mean Streets, Scorsese’s GoodFellas still remains the yardstick for all subsequent films on organised crime. One of the decades’ best.
(Wadrick Jones is a freelance writer for GritFX and will post weekly thirty second film reviews on this blog.)