Tag Archives: gina gershon

John Woo’s Face Off

John Woo’s Face/Off was originally conceived as a Schwarzenegger/Stallone vehicle and was to exist in a far more futuristic setting. I’m glad that the eventual execution was more down to earth because I get cold sweat visions of the 90’s Judge Dredd flick with Arnie swapped in for Armand Assante. Jokes aside, the performances, production design finished product turned out to be pretty much as amazing as anything you’ll find in Hollywood throughout the years, and has become a classic for me.

John Travolta and Nicolas Cage are perfectly paired as grizzled FBI super-agent Sean Archer and eccentric, psychopathic rock star terrorist Caster Troy, two star crossed arch enemies who find themselves battling on a whole new plane when their faces literally get swapped by the bureau’s fanciest clandestine nip tuck procedure. This gives the film not a only a high concept boost but the opportunity for each actor to really break free from the bonds of playing just one character and overlap into the realms of their counterpart, not to mention parody the absolute fuck out of their respective acting styles, which we as moviegoers know is never short on eccentricity for the both of them. Others revolve around them, specifically two very different women in their lives who are caught up in the in the titanic clash of will, ego and guns upon guns. Joan Allen is angelic poetry as Eve, Archer’s wife, and Gina Gershon adds a feline sexiness in Sasha, Troy’s old concubine. They both share a wounded nature in different ways, both having been drawn into the conflict and taking charge of their trajectory in different, equally compelling ways. Nick Cassevetes and his bald dome steal scenes as Dietrich, Troy’s trigger happy lieutenant, Dominique Swain shows early what talent she has as Archer’s strong willed daughter and there’s a galaxy of supporting talent including Harve Presnell, Colm Feore, CCH Pounder, Matt Ross, Margaret Cho, Thomas Jane, John Carroll Lynch, Alessandro Nivola, Chris Bauer, Robert Wisdom, Kirk Baltz, Paul Hipp, Danny Masterson, David Warshofsky, Thomas Rosales and Scottish badass Tommy Flanagan, early on before Hollywood gave him lines and those leering Joker scars did the talking.

This is the Cage/Travolta show most of the way though and they positively rock the house as two dysfunctional would-be siblings who could probably sit down and have a few beers together if they weren’t so busy trying to kill each other. Woo outdoes himself in a production that includes all of his hallmarks: white doves breaking formation in languid slo-mo, dual wielded berettas barking out clip after clip, symphonies of smashing glass, looming pillars of fireball pyrotechnics and the always classy tradition of characters having firefights clad in snappy suits. There’s a plane chase, a boat chase (my favourite sequence of the film), a breathless aquatic prison break, a church shootout of biblical proportions, a thundering FBI raid on a dockside stronghold, a vicious beatdown of Hyde from That 70’s Show (art eerily imitates life here) and the most inventive use of a harpoon gun I’ve ever cringed at.

Obviously the content of my favourite films is fluid and changes over time but in terms of a top action film, this is likely the constant. It’s like the whole genre went to sleep, had a dream and this was the resulting output. I gotta mention the original score because it’s a doozy, but I’ve always been a bit confused who to thank for it. IMDb has John Powell credited, whose work I love on the Bourne films. But other research turns up evidence of stuff from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard as well, so I’m not sure who did what or if it was a collaboratively lateral thing, but in any case it’s fantastic work, particularly in the boat chase where the composition reaches that near celestial height where it has the power to raise the hairs on your arms. What else is there to say? “Gonna take his face…. off…!”

-Nate Hill

Out For Justice: A review by Nate Hill

  

As much of a goof as Steven Seagal is these days, he does have a few very solid and badass flicks from back in the day, the best of which is probably Out For Justice. There’s a whole pile of his flicks out there both new and old, and you have to know how to approach this particular minefield. There’s a bunch that are awesome (Under Siege, The Glimmer Man, Above The Law) and an even bigger bunch that stink to high hell (literally anything after 1999). You can’t go wrong with this one though. It’s a violent, nasty gut punch of criminal activity set on the very mean streets of NYC. Seagal is pathetic in the sense that he doesn’t even realize that every single film he does is stolen from under his very nose by the villain, both in terms of acting and character. I rent a Seagal flick not for Seagal, but for whatever grizzled character actor plays his nemesis, and here that slot is thoroughly rattled by a psychotic William Forsythe. Seagal plays NYC cop Gino, who is on the hunt for the killer of a childhood friend, perpetrated by unhinged lunatic Richie Madano (Forsythe), a maverick of a villain who constantly eludes Gino and plays a deadly, reckless game until he is finally caught up with. Forsythe is a juggernaut, whether trash talking his own henchman and kicking the shit out of them or taking road rage to a whole new level when he shoots a mouthy motorist in the head for looking at him the wrong way. He’s the homicidal life of the party here, and Seagal struggles to live up to his talent, which he can only do via his undeniable physicality. Gina Gershon has a sheepish, slutty bit as Richie’s sister, and watch for Jerry Orbach doing his thing as well. About as awesome a flick as you’ll find in Seagal’s career, and a total blast. 

Bound: A Review by Nate Hill

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Before the Wachowskis rocketed into the stratosphere of cinema with their big budget world building and brilliant, lofty ideas, they made Bound, a down n’ dirty, kinky little slice of mob pulp that’s as much fun as it is sexy, potent and dangerous. Gina Gershon plays Corky, a hard nosed opportunist with a keen eye for making money and a fondness for beautiful women. Jennifer Tilly is Violet, the bored wife of weaselly gangster Ceasar (a lively Joe Pantoliano), who has just come into a whole wacky of shady cash via his employer Mickey, played by one of the great character actors of his generation, John P. Ryan, who is sadly no longer with us. Ceasar has been given the money to launder, but Violet has other plans that involve double crossing him and making off with it. When she happens to wander into the gay bar that Corky frequents, sparks fly. And I really mean it, for soon enough the two are in bed together for one of the single most hot and heavy sex scenes you will ever see in a film. Seriously, you’ll want to open some windows for this baby. As soon as Corky gets wind of the money, the plot simmers as everyone makes a discreet mad dash for riches and no one is sure who is screwing over who. Gershon is tough, sexy as hell and leaves a faint trace of vulnerability in her excellent performance. Tilly is crafty and secretive, deliberately making people underestimate her until it’s too late. This was Ryan’s last film role, and he makes the most of it as a salty old thug with a dash of class, a touch of kindness and the unnerving tendancy to snap at the drop of a hat. Christopher Meloni is hilariously pathetic as his second in command who irritates everyone around him, especially Ceasar, who has a scary little temper of his own. One senses real danger for our two female leads, because despite the somewhat playful and often satirical tone towards tell gangsters, the Wachowskis have still fashioned them to be formidable and cruel, a wise tonal choice that grounds the viewer and distills geniune suspense. The characters are all brilliantly written and realized, so if you read this review thinking this was a trashy little lowbrow affair, it’s not. It’s It’s a real world tale that just so happens to take place in a lurid part of movie town, and contains one scorcher of a lesbian love affair that is as affecting in dialogue and body language as it is with sex. A special film, and not one to be missed.

Indie Gems with Nate: Dreamland

   
 

Dreamland is an introspective little indie drama concerning the life of Audrey (Agnes Brucker). She lives in a sleepy trailer park way out in the desert somewhere, far and away from anyone else. She longs for a life somewhere else, but is torn between that and caring for her agoraphobic father (John Corbett), who is severely broken following the death of his wife and her mother. Fresh life is breathed into their environment with the arrival of kindly Herb (Chris Mulkey), and his musician wife Mary (Gina Gershon). Along with them is Herb’s son Mookie (Justin Long is a tad miscast), who immediately has eyes for Audrey. The two strike up an easygoing romance that is tested by her rebellious nature, and the commitment she feels for her ailing father. Corbett is sensational, giving the best performance of the film as a damaged soul that needs caring for, and to find the strength to move on. Mulkey and Gershon are real life guitars strummers, giving their characters an authentic, earthy feel. The title matches the tone nicely; everything is non rushed, relaxed, laid back and dreamy, as one would imagine life out there might be. I was lulled into the hazy routines and moving relationships that bloom for these individuals out on the far side of nowhere. Great stuff. 

B Movie Glory with Nate: Borderline

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Borderline plays around with the grey areas of the human mind that control impulse, empathy and rational thinking, showing (albeit in slightly stunted and blunt B movie form) us a recently released psychiatric patient with Borderline Personality Disorder who becomes obsessed with bis former doctor. Gina Gershon is Lila Coletti, a prison psychiatrist who is very good at her job. Maybe too good. When she sanctions the release of Ed Baikman (Sean Patrick Flanery), she has no idea the heap of trouble she’s headed for. Ed is anything but rehabilitated, just a charmer who’s great at disguising his instability. Pretty soon people in Lila’s life start to get mysteriously injured, and even killed. She is protected by her boyfriend, Detective Macy Kobacek (a slick Michael Biehn), but it may not be enough to put a stop to Ed’s crafty, dangerous game. Gershon has always been a strong force, despite being saddled with a lot of… I don’t want to use the M word, but let’s say, promiscuous roles. She holds her own as a lead female protagonist in a real world context even better, and I wish she’d get more roles like this. Flanery is creepy without resorting to gimmicky grimacing or run of the mill psycho stuff. Biehn is Biehn, he’s just a legend in any role. Most of the acting besides those three is pretty patchy, but one can only hope for so much with this kind of low budget fare. Worth it for fans of these actors (they’re all favesies of mine), and a not too shabby little thriller.

Picture Claire: A Review By Nate Hill

  

It figures that a decent Canadian film, which lets face it, is a rare commodity, would me mishandled, neglected and not properly promoted, resulting in its exile into the inter zone of obscurity. Picture Claire is an original, stylish little crime thriller with two solid female leads and a story to tell, a story that has regretfully made its way to far too few audiences. Juliette Lewis plays Claire Beaucage, a confused and awkward French Canadian girl who finds herself in way over her head with dangerous, sexy jewel thief Lily Warden (Gina Gershon, in yet another physically demanding role that adds to my wish that she got a crack at playing Catwoman). Lily is on the run from Laramie (Callum Keith Rennie, the king of charisma) a mobster who wants something she stole, which through circumstance is now in the unwitting hands of Claire. The chase then starts, through the unmistakable streets of Toronto and from one violent encounter to the next. The film is a thriller, and a chase flick at heart, but in that heart it’s got an almost old world, European flavour. Claire has quaint, almost Amelie esque inner monologues which give us insight into her character. She doesn’t speak English, and everyone around her does, which somewhat alienates her. These interludes give us something to latch onto with this strange girl who is more in the dark about what’s going on than even we are, watching from behind our screens. Watch for a profane cameo from Mickey Rourke as Gershon’s lowlife partner in crime, a scene stealer as always. Thoroughly overlooked, and a true delight. 

William Friedkin’s Killer Joe: A Review by Nate Hill

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William Friedkin’s Killer Joe. What, oh what can I say. Upon finishing it, my friend and I shared a single silent moment of heightened horror, looked at each other and chimed “What the fuck?!” in unison. Now, I don’t want our aghast reaction to deter you from seeing this wickedly funny black comedy, because it’s really something you’ve never seen before. Just bring a stomach strong enough to handle dark, depraved scenes and a whole lot of greasy fried chicken that’s put places where it definitely doesn’t belong. Matthew McConaughey is unhinged and off the hook as ‘Killer Joe’ Cooper, one of his best characters in years up until that point. Joe is a very, very bad dude, a Texas police detective who moonlights as a contract killer and is just a lunatic whenever he’s on either shift. Emile Hirsch plays an irresponsible young lad (a character trait that’s commonplace with the folks in this film, and something of an understatement) who is several thousand dollars in debt to a charmer of a loan shark (Marc Macauley). Joe offers to help when Hirsch comes up with the brilliant plan of murdering his skank of a mom (Gina Gershon in full on sleazy slut mode). The ‘plan’ backfires in so many different ways that it stalls what you think is the plot, becoming an increasingly perverted series of events that culminate in the single weirdest blow job I’ve ever seen put to film. Joe has eyes for Hirsch’s underage sister (Juno Temple, excellent as always), and worms his way into her life, as well as her bed. He claims her as collateral, and hovers over the family like some diseased arm of the law. Thomas Haden Church is hilarious as Hirsch’s ne’er do well country bumpkin of a father. Poor Gershon gets it the worst from Joe, in scenes that wander off the edges of the WTF map into John Waters territory. I was surprised to learn that this was a Friedkin film, but the man seems to be the king of genre hopping these days, and it’s always key to be adaptable in your work. A deep fried, thoroughly disgusting twilight zone episode of a flick that’ll give the gag reflex a good workout and keep your jaw rooted to the floor during its final sequence.