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Wadrick's Celluloid Dungeon

Se7en (1995) • Face/Off (1997) • GoodFellas (1990)

Se7en (1995) Poster Art
Se7en (1995)
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.


Face/Off (1997) Poster Art
Face/Off (1997)
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.


GoodFellas (1990) Poster Art
GoodFellas (1990)
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.


RATINGS CHART…

Wadrick Jones' Film Rating Chart.


(Wadrick Jones is a freelance writer for GritFX and will post weekly thirty second film reviews on this blog.)

Discussion

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  1. I watched Face off a few years ago and I think I really like it.. Wouldn’t mind watching it again even though I’ve watched it a few times already. But that was also a few years ago.. 😛

    Posted by Cashmere | February 3, 2009, 4:22 pm
  2. Hiya Cashmere…
    What can I say? Movies are a matter of taste – I’m sure there would be many films I dig that you would consider awful.
    Thanks for the comment…

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | February 3, 2009, 7:09 pm
  3. Face off is the best, both those characters are awesome.

    Peach…I could eat a peach for hours.

    Posted by Wayne | February 3, 2009, 11:35 pm
  4. Hey Wadrick…
    After seeing the same scenes over and over again while working at the cinema, I’m with you and can not stand Face/Off!!

    That slow-motion ending, made for a slow-mo usher shift!!

    However, I’d swap the ratings around on Se7en and GoodFellas 😉 Like you said, “Movies are a matter of taste.”

    Posted by Manz | February 4, 2009, 2:51 am
  5. I don’t have anything that interesting to say, but since I know it is fun to get feedback/comments I will try:

    Seven was a real mind-bender, the first time I saw it I walked out of the theater in a daze.

    Goodfellas is allright, I have seen it on tv a couple of times.

    Face Off is a mindless action flick, I didn’t hate it. I forgot about until you mentioned it in this post.

    I think this is the first Wadrick post where I have seen all three movies.

    Posted by Bill Donovan | February 4, 2009, 11:20 am
  6. se7en was the first movie that motion graphics had ever set the scene so well. inspired me to learn after effects. and i’m better off for it.

    interesting story. when i was in college i had these german pro skateboarder friends that would come out for the trade shows once a year. one year they took me to world industries. i was out back on the mini ramp with this real unassuming kid. he was the designer for chocolate sk8brds, we got to talkin about art and graphics and i mentioned how much i enjoyed the graphics for se7en. he looks at me and says ‘thanks, i did those’. then he dropped in and rocked a mean kickflip on the extension.

    odd huh? you never know who you are skating with.

    Posted by deryke | February 4, 2009, 3:54 pm
  7. Yeah, Se7en was one of those biggies, it brought a whole new aesthetic to films that got cannibalised a thousand times over. But the clones missed the point. Fincher managed style AND substance, whereas the copycats could only manage the style part (if they were lucky). The Matrix had a similar effect. Every action film made after that, had to have black leather jackets and sunglasses and bullet-time and slick hair-dos. (In fact, the ‘style’ was the only thing anyone could copy from The Matrix, coz after the 1st film, no one knew what the hell the ‘substance’ was anyway… 😉

    Posted by Decoy Spoon | February 4, 2009, 5:30 pm
  8. Face/Off fans unite!
    Wayne, I’ll say it again – to each his own.

    Thanks for the support against the film, Manzo!

    Bill – totally felt the same way about Se7en…think I was in a daze for days.

    Deryke – the guy who did the titles for Se7en was Kyle Cooper. He shot the entire sequence (including the words/font) on film. No computer work at all. He would have been about 32 when he did that work, so I don’t know if that ‘unassuming kid’ you met was jerking your chain or not…

    Decoy – I take it you didn’t like the Matrix sequels? But I ain’t gonna start a debate about that…
    Ya right though – ‘bullet time’ became ‘boring time’ once it began to be imitated.

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | February 4, 2009, 8:07 pm
  9. Yeah man, look i thought The Matrix was great–fresh, innovative, stylish etc–(I’d say ‘original’ too, if I didnt feel they ripped off existing things like: the ideas of Philip K Dick, and Grant Morrison’s comic The Invisibles). But I did feel the sequels lost the plot a bit, with the over-cooked philosophising and convoluted script. They were still entertaining and had some great action scenes (plus a bit of Monica Belluci goes a long way 😉 But yeah, I was scratching my head a bit plot-wise. I mean, if Neo was ‘the one’, couldn’t he’ve just sidestepped a lot of that long-winded stuff? (I am the gate-keeper, are you the key-master’ – thought I was watching Ghostbusters again 😉
    And the protracted fist-fights with Hugo really got a bit tedious by the end. ‘Oh, just finish him off, for god’s sake…’ 😉

    Still, all this talk proves they are still ‘interesting’ films, and I’d take them over the majority of other dross any day…

    Posted by Decoy Spoon | February 4, 2009, 8:39 pm
  10. Yeah Decoy…I kinda have to agree, even though I enjoyed Reloaded more than the first film. I thought the last film was a bit tedious, as you say. But there was method in all that madness…I don’t know if those films could have gone another way (not that that was necessarily a good thing…)
    I’m still on the shelf with the whole Matrix thang…I kinda dig them, but there was a lot that shat me about them too…But hell yeah man, a little bit of Belluci goes a long, long way…(whoa!)
    Catch ya, my man….

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | February 4, 2009, 11:40 pm
  11. I liked the Matrix.

    When I was in Afghanistan me and another soldier used to run laps around the base in opposite loops (clockwise/counter-clockwise), and whenever we passed each other we would slow-mo dodge bullets as we ran… I don’t really understand what it meant, but it was fun, and I owe Neo for that. I guess there is added meaning in that we had machine guns, haha.

    Posted by Bill Donovan | February 5, 2009, 12:01 am
  12. That’s classic, Bill…I have this crazy mental image of that now…

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | February 5, 2009, 1:15 am
  13. wha?

    then it’s STABBING TIME !!!

    Posted by deryke | February 5, 2009, 1:58 am
  14. Deryke..

    :)

    You never know, that kid may have worked on the film in some capacity, but it’s ballsy to take the cred for it…

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | February 5, 2009, 4:20 am
  15. we also used to quote the scene where Agent Smith lists questions as potential reasons for Neo to keep fighting (Of course in the same voice as agent Smith):

    Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can’t win. It’s pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?

    (It is really funny when you are about to go on a mission into a combat zone, haha.)

    Posted by Bill Donovan | February 5, 2009, 10:23 am
  16. i’m stabbing regardless!

    Posted by deryke | February 5, 2009, 3:14 pm
  17. Gotta get involved in this convo…

    Derykestab away! Anyone claiming credit for such inspirational work that isn't theirs, deserves it!! It inspired me also – however the After Effects program we have can no longer be used as it's too old for the computer systems here. I really should get it upgraded. Especially now that we have the GritHouse channel, I feel there is a purpose to rekindling that relationship… I could have a go at some titles for Will's work 😉

    You would have loved this SBS promo campagin that I witnessed being put together. All done like the se7en titles, using film. The atist produced a series of "Burton-esque" footage, and then the SBS team layered and masked items on their "old school" system. They were only just getting an after effects / computer studio set up – this was in the year 2000. The campaign looked awesome when it was all complete. It was all black & white, bizarre alien types of images.

    Bill – What a mental image you paint! Now there’s an example of when slow-mo is used appropriately – pay attention John Woo! And what a memory you have of the film – sounded fairly accurate to me, Mr Smith.

    Decoy – I think that Neo being ‘the one’, required him to experience all that “long-winded stuff”. It’s all “designed” by the machines to lead him to the Architect, at which point it is assumed that being ‘the one’ he will make the decision that he is genetically disposed to do. But this time environmental factors have him making a different decision. I thought interesting concepts like genes Vs environment where explored nicely in the sequel.

    That’s enough from me :)

    Posted by Manz | February 6, 2009, 8:26 pm
  18. GoodFellas and Seven were incredible films. I wasn’t a big fan of Face Off at all.

    Posted by trench | February 7, 2009, 3:43 am
  19. Hey Trench…
    Cheers for the Face/Off support…

    Face/Off Detractors: 4
    Face/Off Fans: 2

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | February 7, 2009, 5:09 am
  20. I am Face Off nuetral!

    Posted by Bill Donovan | February 8, 2009, 10:54 pm
  21. Oh…correction then…

    Face/Off Detractors: 3
    Face/Off Fans: 2
    Neutral to Face/Off: 1

    Posted by Wadrick Jones | February 9, 2009, 5:26 am

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