The Top 15 Movies I Reviewed in 2017!

List by Derrick Carter

Throughout the course of 2017, I posted 206 movie reviews on this blog. Though about a quarter of those were rewatches (covering the SAW and CHILD’S PLAY franchises before their latest installments, and also paying tribute to the passing of genre legend George A. Romero), I managed to catch plenty of fresh new films, forgotten flicks, and classics that I simply hadn’t gotten around to watching. As with last year, 2017’s “Best of” list will cover movies that I watched for the first time in my life. This means that old and new films are on the table, regardless of what year they came out. If a film was new to me and I loved it, then I’m including it with my favorite films that I watched in 2017!

Before I get into my 15 favorite films that I reviewed this year, there are some honorable mentions. I had previously seen THE EXORCIST, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE THING, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and ALIENS before this year. Otherwise, they would be on this list. As far as first-time watches, I truly enjoyed the groundbreaking drama MOONLIGHT and adored the 80s throwback STRANGER THINGS. Concerning new horror films, THE EYES OF MY MOTHER seriously disturbed me, THE VOID was a phenomenal Lovecraftian nightmare, and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS was one hell of a zombie film! WONDER WOMAN also wound up as my second-favorite superhero film of 2017. As for indie thrillers, WIND RIVER was a gripping ride and GOOD TIME was a neon-lit throwback to Martin Scorsese’s early work.

Now, without further ado, onto my top 15 favorite films that I reviewed during 2017…

15. MY FRIEND DAHMER: Most serial killer films focus on chilling murders of their subjects, but MY FRIEND DAHMER is not like most serial killer films. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, MY FRIEND DAHMER is a chilling drama that chronicles the pre-murderous life of Jeffrey Dahmer and examines him as a high school weirdo. By somewhat “humanizing” this psycho, the film doesn’t attempt to elicit sympathy towards its titular cannibal killer and instead shines a light on the fact that people we went to high school might very well turn into monsters seen in news headlines. Though there isn’t a single (human) murder to be found, MY FRIEND DAHMER joins the ranks among the best films about real-life serial killers (MONSTER, ZODIAC, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, and THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS).

14. FOUR LIONS: The idea of tackling Islamic terrorism through a darkly comic lens might sound completely misguided on paper, but FOUR LIONS is the best comedy that I sat through all year! The film follows four idiotic would-be terrorists as they attempt to execute a devastating attack, but constantly fumble over their own stupidity and reveal themselves to be bumbling morons. In my opinion, painting Islamic terrorists in this ridiculous light strips some of the power away from them in a similar way to what Charlie Chaplin did to Hitler in THE GREAT DICTATOR or what Rogen/Franco did to Kim Jong-Un with THE INTERVIEW. If you’re down for dark comedy and don’t mind totally offensive punchlines, you should give FOUR LIONS a watch in the near future!

13. HARD BOILED: Last year, LADY SNOWBLOOD wound up being one of my favorite movie-going experiences as I saw it in a packed cinema pub screening. This year, that cinema pub moviegoing experience belongs to HARD BOILED. This shoot ’em up actioner is over-the-top to the point of being ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome! Each gun fight plays out like a carefully choreographed dance and the film features one of the most jaw-dropping single take sequences that I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. Though it relies on a few cop movie clichés, it utilizes these in a loving way that makes the familiar material seem fresh. If you’re into action films and you haven’t seen HARD BOILED, then you need to remedy that immediately!

12. T2 TRAINSPOTTING: In all honesty, I didn’t know what exactly to expect from a sequel to TRAINSPOTTING. I love that film and I know that novelist Irvine Welsh wrote a follow-up novel, but I didn’t know how that might translate into a cinematic sequel. Over two decades after its predecessor’s release, T2 TRAINSPOTTING serves as an amazing companion piece to the original. Using the same cast and experimental visual style (albeit through a much more polished lens), TRAINSPOTTING 2 delivers stellar performances and naturally follows the lives of the four ne’er do wells from the previous film. If you loved the first film, then you’ll probably love this one too. For a full experience, it’s best to watch both of them back-to-back in the space of a single night!

11. NORTH BY NORTHWEST: This may be blasphemy for a cinephile, but I actually haven’t seen many Alfred Hitchcock films. I love PSYCHO, THE BIRDS, and DIAL M FOR MURDER, but the rest of his filmography is basically a mystery to my movie-craving eyes. My first viewing of NORTH BY NORTHWEST took place in the best possible environment (a packed movie theater) and I was blown away by how thrilling this film is. This is basically a James Bond film before Bond ever hit the screen. Cary Grant serves as a charismatic leading man who’s on the run for a murder he didn’t commit. Over the space of his death-defying adventure, we gets lots of suspense, action, and unexpected plot twists. I was on the edge of my seat for this entire film and walked away extremely satisfied. If the rest of Hitchcock’s filmography is anywhere near this great, then I’m in for a real treat as I continue to watch his work.

10. I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE: Blending a Coen brothers style of humor with indie thriller sensibilities, I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE might just be the most underseen and underrated film of 2017! This movie won an audience award at Sundance and then went directly to Netflix, where some people talked about for a couple of weeks and then it just kind of seemed to vanish out of the public eye. This is a vigilante thriller that’s believable in how inept real-life wannabe vigilantes might be and frequently dishes out shocking spurts of graphic violence. This might be the best Coen brothers film that the Coen brothers never made and I can’t wait to see what first-time director/writer Macon Blair cooks up next!

9. BABY DRIVER: What can I say? Edgar Wright consistently makes great films. BABY DRIVER is a passion project that Wright had in the works for years. In a similar fashion to how George Miller carefully planned out every scene, shot, and effect in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, Wright constantly lets the viewer know that they’re in the hands of a visionary storyteller. This stylish crime tale about a getaway driver who (ironically enough) wants to get away from his criminal lifestyle is loaded with colorful characters, hilarious humor, and adrenaline-pumping action that’s synced up to one of the best damn soundtracks you’ll hear all year. I gushed over this movie back in June and I am still gushing about it now. If you want a joy ride of pure fun, BABY DRIVER will satisfy your cinematic craving!

8. THE DISASTER ARTIST: Never in a million years did I think that anything to do with Tommy Wiseau’s so-bad-it’s-good THE ROOM would ever wind up on any “Best of” list. Yet, here we are. James Franco lovingly adapts the nonfiction book about the creation of THE ROOM to the big screen in a way that’s not only hilarious, but also genuinely touching. THE DISASTER ARTIST doesn’t take the easy route of being a goofy comedy about a loser who fails so spectacularly that he kind of succeeds. Instead, this film takes a more complicated drama-comedy approach and shows us the more serious side of oddball Tommy Wiseau…and his strange friendship with would-be aspiring actor Greg Sestero. THE DISASTER ARTIST is a moving must-see for ROOM fans and cinephiles who just love great movies in general.

7. BLADE RUNNER 2049: I’m saying it right now, BLADE RUNNER 2049 is one of the best sequels to ever hit the silver screen. Over three decades after its predecessor’s debut, BLADE RUNNER 2049 recaptures the bleak sci-fi/noir spark that made the original into the cult classic that it is today. 2049’s cast all deliver amazing performances across the board, with supporting actors making the biggest impressions in their small minutes of screen time and Ryan Gosling serving as a fascinating new antihero. Besides delivering a complex mystery that unpredictably shifts directions as it goes along, 2049 also has one of the most beautiful romantic subplots in years and it features a literal “one-dimensional” character. For those who were bummed out by this film’s disappointing box office returns, remember that the first BLADE RUNNER was a box office flop and is now considered to be one of the greatest science-fiction films of all time. A similar classic status will undoubtedly follow BLADE RUNNER 2049 in future years!

6. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES: Seven years ago, if you had told me that a PLANET OF THE APES prequel trilogy would be one of the best cinematic trilogies ever, I would have laughed in your face. It turns out that’s exactly the case though. 2014’s DAWN drastically improved upon the minor flaws of 2011’s RISE, but 2017’s WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is stellar storytelling from beginning to end. Themes of revenge, survival, and forgiveness are examined throughout the film’s ever-changing plot. Performance wise, WAR fully shapes out intelligent ape Caesar (played wonderfully by Andy Serkis) as animal protagonist who’s more compelling than most human protagonists in films and also introduces Woody Harrelson as a monstrous villain who we want to see die in the most painful way possible. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES was the best possible way to conclude the APES prequel trilogy and is one of the best summer blockbusters I’ve ever sat through!

5. IRREVERSIBLE: I originally heard about Gaspar Noe’s rape-revenge drama from a podcast in 2008, but hadn’t bothered to give it a look until earlier this year. Though not strictly a horror film by any means, IRREVERSIBLE is a terrifying cinematic experience as events are told backwards. Unlike other linear rape-revenge stories, we see the revenge come first and travel backwards through the moments that eventually lead up to the violent act of justice. As the film plays out in reverse (ironic considering its title), we put pieces of this depressing puzzle together for ourselves and this already tragic event becomes even more tragic with each new revelation. This isn’t a film for the faint-hearted and it’s about as bleak as they come, but IRREVERSIBLE is an uncompromising masterpiece that deserves to be seen by anybody who loves the serious artistic side of cinema!

4. LOGAN: There will never be a better Wolverine than Hugh Jackman. I’m saying that right now. Over a decade has been spent watching Jackman in the role of this weaponized mutant, so LOGAN serves as a suitable final chapter for Jackman’s reluctant do-gooder. The future X-MEN films have a tough act to follow, because LOGAN is a special kind of superhero story. Relationships between the small cast of characters drives the emotional core of this film forward, whilst the R rating finally delivers something that X-MEN fans have wanted to see since 2000: a bad-ass Wolverine slicing and dicing his way through bad guys. This film also has shades of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD crossed with a comic book story that’s about as unconventional as they come. Now that Disney is in talks to own the X-MEN franchise, we likely won’t see another film like LOGAN coming from this mutant-based series. LOGAN is a one-of-a-kind superhero film and one of the best comic book movies ever made!

3. EYES WIDE SHUT: Stanley Kubrick’s final film is an underrated masterpiece about the way in which people delude themselves into believing that they’re happy…and also there’s a creepy sex cult involved too. The entire film has a dream-like atmosphere as we watch the main character (Tom Cruise) venture through a single night odyssey that explores the sexual possibilities of cheating on his wife. Kubrick masterfully shows the dire consequences that might result from following our instinctual desires, whilst also putting us into the place of Cruise’s character. This is especially true of the ending which offers two distinct possibilities: one of them is easy and comforting…and the other one is ambiguous and dangerous. Whatever you might think of it or how you might interpret it, EYES WIDE SHUT is sure to keep you talking about it long after it’s over.

2. YOUR NAME: Eat your heart out Studio Ghibli! YOUR NAME just might be one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever sat through. This film has gorgeous animation from beginning to end, while also delivering an entrancing tale of emotions and body-swapping. It’s initial set-up sounds like the anime equivalent of FREAKY FRIDAY, but drastically becomes something far more charming and moving as its complex plot moves along. This might be one of the strangest love stories ever put to the screen, but its emotional resonance is undeniable! The characters are all built up to the point where the viewer feels for their struggles and deeply cares about them. This makes the film’s final third into a very suspenseful and gripping ride. Also, the climax is utterly perfect. YOUR NAME is a masterpiece and deserves every bit of praise it has received so far (and will continue to receive)!

1. MOTHER!: Much like my favorite film of 2016 (HIGH-RISE), I know that there will be people who loathe and downright detest MOTHER! Some will hate it for its sheer artsy nightmare-logic style and others will despise its controversial message, but I adored every single frame of this fucked-up little ditty. The film follows a woman and her husband in an isolated countryside house. After a strange couple pop in and just decide to stay, their lives are shifted in horrifying ways. I can’t get too into details, because it would spoil some of the film’s nasty surprises and metaphorical madness. I will say that MOTHER! is my favorite horror film of the 2010s so far and one of the ballsiest films to ever receive a nationwide theatrical release. People either really love this film or totally hate it. There isn’t much middle ground to be found and you will likely walk away with a very strong opinion about it. One of the film’s trailers promised that “you’ll never forget where you were the first time you saw MOTHER!” and that statement is completely accurate. I’ve been thinking about this unforgettable horror film since its release and I can’t wait to dive into it again and again in future years to come!

Well, 2017 was a wild year for me…both on this site and in my personal life. I’m currently in the process of moving, so reviews will resume sometime in January! I plan to keep this little movie blog rolling, with plenty of reviews (both old and new) being pumped out on a mostly regular basis! A huge “thank you” to anyone who’s read this blog at all during the past year or any new readers who are discovering it for the first time. There was plenty to love in the world of film during 2017 and here’s to a just as great (if not better) 2018!

HARD BOILED (1992)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 8 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Violence and some Language

(Cantonese with English subtitles)

Directed by: John Woo

Written by: Barry Wong

Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Anthony Wong, Bowie Lam, Teresa Mo, Philip Chan, Philip Kwok & Bobby Au-Yeung

I’ve mentioned Brewvies Cinema Pub and their monthly Kung Fu Theater nights on this blog before. For those who are new to the site, haven’t stumbled across those reviews or just need a quick refresher, Utah has a cinema pub (called Brewvies)…and they’re awesome…and they run monthly Kung Fu screenings. For May 2017’s Kung Fu Theater, the selection was something out of the ordinary. Instead of going with the usual chopsocky fare, Brewvies decided to screen one of John Woo’s most famous action films: HARD BOILED. I’ve only seen two of Woo’s films (FACE/OFF and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2), so I had no idea what to expect from his pre-Hollywood material. Turns out, HARD BOILED is awesome!

Officer Tequila Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat) is a loose-cannon cop who doesn’t play by the rules. After his partner is gunned down in a teahouse shooting, Tequila decides to put his grief-stricken vengeance to good use by investigating an arms-dealing crime syndicate. Coincidentally, undercover cop Alan (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) has just joined the ranks of this weapons-heavy gang…which is under the leadership of greasy-haired, colorful-shirt-wearing scumbag Johnny Wong (Anthony Wong). On separate quests for redemption and justice, Tequila and Alan will come face-to-face and possibly band together to take down Wong’s crime empire. Lots of explosions, bodies, bullets, and babies-in-peril follow!

John Woo seems to have a knack for shooting action in a beautifully stylized way. That certainly comes across in HARD BOILED’s many gun fights and confrontations. Beautiful cinematography brings a unique atmosphere to the familiar cops-and-criminals proceedings from the very first scene. This continues as the bullet-ridden chaos is captured in a creative way. People leap through windows/cars and take cover behind anything they can find, all while Woo focuses on the carefully executed action in a way where the audience can see who is shooting at whom (an effect that’s frequently muddled in today’s shaky-cam-heavy action scenes).

Woo’s directing talent comes to a head in one of the best action scenes ever captured on film, an unbroken single-take shoot-out through the hallways of a hospital. This is made even more impressive when you consider how each stunt and special effect needed to be right on its mark or the illusion would instantly be shattered. The editing also helps ratchet up suspense as Woo frequently cuts from one conversation/scene to the action that’s taking place or about to take place. The best example of this comes in a boathouse shoot-out that shows a mysterious stranger with a shotgun approaching…all while two conversing characters are oblivious to this person’s existence.

As far as characters go, Woo packs a colorful bunch into this fast-paced actioner. Besides the side characters of a “kindly” old mob boss (Kwan Hoi-Shan), a pissed-off superintendent (Philip Chan, who was an actual police officer for 15 years), and a love-interest/baby-saver (Teresa Mo), there are four big performances worth diving into. The two heroes of the picture are Chow Yun-Fat as Inspector Tequila and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as Alan. The chemistry between these two polar-opposite partners is convincing and fun to watch. Yun-Fat takes on the biggest bad-ass role as Hong Kong’s equivalent of Dirty Harry, always chewing a toothpick and coping an attitude. Meanwhile, Leung-Chi’s Alan is a sensitive guy in a tough spot, making cranes for every person he kills on his quest for justice.

The main villains of the piece present a formidable challenge for the pair. Anthony Wong plays playboy-type Triad boss Johnny Wong, who wears colorful shirts, seems like a smug bastard, and has a mean streak. This makes for a baddie who you want to see killed in the most painful way possible. More interestingly, Philip Kwok damn near steals the show as Wong’s psychotic henchman Mad Dog. Mad Dog doesn’t speak much during the first half, but makes a strong impression through being an utter bad-ass baddie (throwing grenades instead of shooting bullets and lighting his cigarette on a burning car). Mad Dog’s later fight scenes against Alan and Tequila are easily my favorite moments of the film.

I love HARD BOILED, but it has a couple of nitpicky flaws. These come in a few of Woo’s stylistic choices that don’t add much to the proceedings and occasionally detract from smaller dialogue-driven moments. Of course, Woo would be one to use slow-motion in his action scenes, but this slow-motion seems a tad “off.” Maybe that’s my modern sensibilities nagging me, but I felt the slow-motion didn’t make the action scenes any cooler in this film (they were already awesome to begin with). Also, there are freeze frames during the first half that frequently end scenes. It feels like Woo didn’t really know how to use engaging transitions and so he constantly freezes the frame and then fades into another scene. It’s not a huge complaint, but this had a sitcom-like vibe to it.

Aside from two tiny nitpicks, HARD BOILED is a damn near masterpiece of its genre. The characters are memorable, the action is nuts, and the high stakes constantly get higher (like a room full of babies in a gun-filled environment). There are intentional laughs to be had, alongside adrenaline-pumping action sequences, a stellar eye behind the camera, and a never-ending sense of entertainment. HARD BOILED is a must-see for fans of action movies!

Grade: A

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 (2000)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 3 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violent Action and some Sensuality

MI2 poster

Directed by: John Woo

Written by: Robert Towne

Starring: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson & Brendan Gleeson

Seeing as 1996’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE was such a big, dumb, action-packed hit among audiences, you’d expect that a sequel (especially one with John Woo as director) would be bigger, dumber and even more action-packed. You would definitely be right on it being dumber, but I’m not sure if the bigger and more action-packed descriptions are entirely correct. It has been noted by many fans that MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 is considered to be the worst in the series. I really hope that’s the case, because I was bored out of my mind whilst watching this supposedly adrenaline-filled ride. This second installment in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise is laughably overstylized, carried by a bland script and feels like a vanity project for Cruise. If this didn’t have Tom Cruise slapped on the front, I could easily see this film starring a washed up Steven Seagal or Christopher Lambert.

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Ever since his little escapade in the first film, Ethan Hunt has been a full-fledged IMF agent. His latest assignment has required him to climb a rocky cliff with his bare hands in order to pick up a specialized pair of exploding sunglasses. After putting on the glasses (in slow motion, of course), Ethan is informed that a deadly virus (known as Chimera) is in the hands of rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose. Ethan will have to use former thief and Ambrose’s ex-flame Nyah Nordoff-Hall to get close to the rogue IMF agent and his super virus. With the clock ticking and an ever predictable plan unfolding, Ethan begins falling for Hall…all while Ambrose begins to suspect that something might be up.

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In a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film, you’d expect crazy excitement right out of the gate, but that’s not the case with MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2. Instead, the first 20 minutes consist of the pre-credits obligatory villain introduction and Tom Cruise wooing the former thief (played by Thandie Newton). Even when we receive a car chase or surveillance scene, they come off as laughable in these early moments. It takes a long while for anything remotely interesting or exciting to happen in this sequel. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have a couple of enjoyable action sequences, but these are rarely the case. With little action to distract from the convoluted plot (in a stark contrast to the first film), the plot holes stick out with glaring stupidity. These include a dumbass villain who seems to foiling his own plan with a series of idiotic decisions. Another unintentionally hilarious aspect comes in a scene where Tom Cruise seems to form an unspoken psychic connection with pigeons and doves (this is still John Woo, after all) to knock out a bunch of random henchmen.

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What makes MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 that much more of a disappointment are the bigger names in the cast. Tom Cruise seems to revel in the camera being on him throughout this entire film. He constantly looks like he’s posing for a magazine cover, even when he’s supposed to be in action scene. It never feels like he’s in any danger whatsoever, even though the first movie also sort of suffered from the same problem. Ving Rhames plays the computer genius who delivers lots of exposition and doesn’t really do much of anything else. Thandie Newton is the typically bland damsel-in-distress/love-interest for Cruise. Anthony Hopkins and Brendan Gleeson also pop up for…some reason. Maybe, they just wanted a quick paycheck (though Gleeson wasn’t nearly as big as he is today). Finally, Dougray Scott is a pathetic villain. He’s just so generic. There wasn’t much to his character other than being interested in superweapons and money, but little in the way of an entertaining delivery or crazed personality.

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While watching MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2, I couldn’t help but get the sense that it seemed like nobody on the set really cared about this sequel…except for Tom Cruise and John Woo. John Woo cared because he wanted to throw explosions, slow motion and doves at the screen. Tom Cruise cared because it gave him an excuse to flash his smile, flip his luscious locks during a would-be climactic fight scene, and do a model pose in every possible frame of film that he could. This is a lackluster sequel that’s just plain bad. Aside from a couple of enjoyable action moments and unintentional hilarity, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 is quite boring. This sequel feels like it’s trying to focus on being way more hip and cool this time around, all while never understanding why the simple crazy thrills in the original worked as well as they did.

Grade: D

FACE/OFF (1997)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 18 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Intense Sequences of Strong Violence, and for Strong Language

FaceOff poster

Directed by: John Woo

Written by: Mike Werb & Michael Colleary

Starring: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain & Nick Cassavetes

If there are two actors who have really been slumming it lately, they would be John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. These two were huge at the height of their career, but have since wound up as washed-up has-beens taking any role that comes across their desks (how else would one explain Cage’s output for the last 5 years?). FACE/OFF is a ridiculous action flick with a really silly premise that allows for a maximum amount of fun, while also providing an excuse for Cage and Travolta to go as over-the-top as humanly possible in their roles…as each other.

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Sean Archer is a loose-cannon FBI agent who doesn’t play by the rules. After the death of his son, Archer has made it his personal mission to take down high-profile terrorist Castor Troy. Archer should feel accomplished once he’s caught Troy (who winds up in a coma), but there’s still a big problem. A bomb is loose in the city (of course) and there’s only one possible (and highly ludicrous) way to stop it from going off. Archer must undergo a shocking super-secret surgery to switch faces with Troy in order to get the location of the bomb out of Troy’s brother. Unfortunately for Archer, the now faceless Troy wakes up from his coma and steals Archer’s face. With their identities switched, the real Archer (wearing Troy’s face) must escape from prison and save his family from Castor Troy (who’s wearing Archer’s face)!

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At the very least, one can reasonably say that this movie’s plot is very silly. You pretty much know what you’re going in for from the get-go. The storyline doesn’t deviate from a predictable course of events with any huge twists or turns. It’s a big dumb popcorn-muncher and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Occasionally, junk food can be just as satisfying than a steak. That is exactly the case with this movie. There are occasional plot holes and silliness abounding, but it’s all in good fun without any pretensions about being taken seriously.

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The best thing about FACE/OFF’s premise is that it provides a flimsy enough excuse for Cage and Travolta to do their best impressions of each other. Kudos to both of these performers, because they do a good job of taking on two completely separate roles. John Travolta plays a pretty bland cop character to begin with, but is allows a lot of wiggle room when he’s crazy Troy. Cage actually is a bit too over-the-top and ridiculous as Troy, but gets significantly better when he transforms into the hero with a villain’s face. The supporting cast is completely forgettable. That’s not a huge problem though, because we all know that the real draw of FACE/OFF is to see Travolta and Cage…well, facing off against each other.

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As fun and hugely entertaining as the action scenes can be, there are definite moments where John Woo gets way too bombastic. There are lots of needless explosions and a cast of people who miss when shooting targets who are a mere few feet away (including both Cage and Travolta). Lots of silly screaming, firework sound effects, and overused slow motion are frequently used. There’s also a hilarious amount of doves packed into five minutes of screen time as well as a Mexican stand-off with more guns than the finale of RESERVOIR DOGS. With all this complaining, there’s far more good to be seen (including an awesome boat chase) than bad. The running time might seem bloated upon the start of the movie, but I can safely say that things never got dull at any point.

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FACE/OFF is exactly what it set out to be. It’s a big, dumb action movie loaded with explosions, over-the-top acting, and a ridiculous story that’s a whole lot of silly fun. Sure, it gets mighty stupid throughout and packs in action movie clichés over and over again, but it’s also a total blast from beginning to end!

Grade: B

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