Dominic Sena’s Season Of The Witch is one of those glossy, noisy supernatural medieval romps that somehow hovers on the line between feeling like a big budget blockbuster and a direct to video outing. It stars Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman as two veteran knights of the crusades who become disillusioned with their often brutal cause and the unfortunate civilian casualties that accompany it. They set out on their own as freelance mercenaries and are soon hired by a plague-ridden Cardinal (a near unrecognizable Christopher Lee) to transport a suspected witch (Claire Foy)… somewhere, I wasn’t really paying attention but it involves lots of snowy mountains, dangerous bridge crossings and eventually a spooky old castle for the grand finale. This is pretty run of the mill stuff, the CGI is really weak, the plot is inexcusably thin, historical accents are dodgy and the PG-13 rating pretty much guarantees a lack of genuine bite or edge as far as horror is concerned. It’s mediocre on almost every level but for some reason I found myself enjoying bits of it, despite my best efforts. I think that it has to do with Cage and Perlman, who are both terrific here and really deserve to be in a better film. They’ve never acted together before but they have effortless bromance chemistry here, they take full advantage of the writing and simply seeing them bantering, bickering or slinging tavern pints together is kind of a small delight. Aside from them it’s generic, the supporting cast includes familiar faces like Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Rory ‘The Hound’ McCann, Brian F. O’Byrne and Robert Sheehan who all try valiantly to make impressions with… varied results. The problem too is that the film promises us a witch and when it comes time to deliver they reveal that this chick isn’t really a witch at all, she’s something far worse and unfortunately something that the film just didn’t seem to have enough budget bucks to properly present onscreen, and it hurts its chances. Still, it’s worth a look for the beautiful, rugged scenery (filmed mainly in Austria) plus Cage and Perlman, who are legitimately engaging and perhaps someday will get a better film to do their buddy-cop knights edition routine.
I’ve always liked Gone In 60 Seconds, even if it is one of the more lukewarm notches in Jerry Bruckheimer’s belt. Helmed by Dominic Sena who comes from a music video background, you get what you’d expect from a craftsman like that in the way of a flashy, eye catching popcorn flick that sees an easygoing Nicolas Cage as Memphis Rhaines, a car thief guru culled out of retirement when his dipshit little brother (Giovanni Ribisi) gets in deep with a dangerous UK mobster (Doctor Who). It’s the perfect setup for one long night of auto boosting as the villain gives them a laundry list of sweet cars to steal and ship out of the port by sunup or they end up as fuel for his scary flame factory/junkyard thing that these guys always seem to own and live in. The real fun is in seeing Cage put together an eclectic team of fellow thieves to work their magic, including Will Patton’s slick veteran booster, Scott Caan playing yet another insufferable horn-dog, Robert Duvall as a sagely old fence, Vinnie Jones as the strong silent muscle and Angelina Jolie as the motor mouthed tomboy who inevitably ends up in the saddle with Cage. They’re all hunted by two detectives, one an intuitive veteran (Delroy Lindo) and the other a misguided rookie (Timothy Olyphant) who always are naturally one step behind them, and so the formula goes. The cars are indeed pretty cool, especially Eleanor, Rhaines’s fabled unicorn automobile that happens to be a gorgeous matte silver Shelby GT with a seriously sexy purr. The supporting cast is solid and includes William Lee Scott, James Duval, Chi McBride, Michael Pena, John Carroll Lynch, Master P ad Twin Peak’s Grace Zabriskie as Cages’s feisty mom. This isn’t a knock your socks off flick or anything revolutionary in the genre, but it cruises along with an easy swing, carefree urban vibe and the actors, as well as Sena’s sharp and snazzy visual editing make it fun enough. Oh and it doesn’t get much cooler than those wicked opening credits set to Moby’s Flower, that’s how you lay down a mood for the film to follow.
Dominic Sena’s Kalifornia is a brilliantly vicious dark fable, a moody cautionary tale regarding the dangers of trust, the true nature of the sociopath and the ironic way in which demons sneak up on us while we are to busy looking for them with our backs turned. It’s also damn fine thriller filmmaking and fits nicely into a subgenre which I happen to be an avid fan of: the American road movie. The highways, byways and back roads of desolate rural USA have a bitter menace that clouds the air like the desert dust kicked up by many a vehicle on their way through. There’s endless possibility out there, for great and terrible evil, in a place where help is always a county away and opportunity looms on the horizon like the bloated California sun. From The Hitcher, to U Turn, to Thelma & Louise, to Duel and everything in between, it’s a setting that hums with cinematic potential. David Duchovney and Michelle Forbes play a yuppie couple who unwittingly wander into the path of extreme danger. Duchovney is a writer who is working on a book about American serial killers. Their journey takes them to many bloodstained locales where incidents took place. Eventually they decide to carpool with rugged redneck Earley Grayce (Brad Pitt), and his bimbo girlfriend Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis) whose IQ appears to be lower than the cut of her blouse. The two couples couldn’t be more different, yet get on well enough. Slowly it becomes clear that there’s something very off about Earley though, noticed keenly by Forbes’s intuition. Duchovney is enamored by the tumbleweed hick, and thinks he’s made a friend. He’s half right, and not even in the way he thinks. The film takes its time letting Earley’s true nature emerge, Pitt slowly detaches and unravels until the tarp is fully torn off and we see the sociopathic monster within. All set in abandoned clusters of former Americana and given slick, almost action movie direction from Sena, it’s not one to miss for any fan of a crackling psychological thriller.