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The Films of Dominic Sena

Kalifornia

Gone in Sixty Seconds (August 13/06)

A remake of the eponymous cult classic, Gone in Sixty Seconds follows a ragtag group of car thieves - led by Nicolas Cage's Memphis Raines - as they attempt to steal 50 cars over a 72-hour time period. Director Dominic Sena infuses the movie with precisely the sort of glossy style that one expects from a Jerry Bruckheimer production, while screenwriter Scott Rosenberg peppers the story with a whole host of quirky characters and clever instances of dialogue. The film is consequently entertaining but senseless; the inherent slickness of virtually every aspect of the production eventually becomes mind-numbing, and there comes a point at which one can't help but crave something (anything) of substance. Having said that, Gone in Sixty Seconds is certainly teeming with charismatic performances (Cage is at his oddball best here) and there's simply no denying the effectiveness of the climactic car chase that finds Raines on the run from dozens of determined cops.

out of


Swordfish (June 16/01)

While Swordfish isn't exactly a masterpiece of filmmaking in any respect, it is consistently entertaining - which is, considering how dull most summer movies are these days, really all one can ask for. Directed by Dominic Sena, the movie, which follows Hugh Jackman's Stanley Jobson as he reluctantly agrees to work for an off-kilter terrorist (John Travolta's Gabriel Shear), opens with a lengthy monologue by Travolta decrying Hollywood movies. This speech is certainly quite entertaining, albeit in a Pulp Fiction-esque, look-how-clever-I-am sort of way. Skip Woods, the man behind the equally pop-culture riffing Thursday, has crafted an intelligent screenplay, which is, when you consider that most movies of this ilk are as stupid as Tomb Raider, something of a surprise and it's genuinely exciting to watch a film with crisp, exciting chunks of dialogue. And what a relief it is, finally, to see a movie use the Matrix bullet-time effect well. The 360-degree look at an explosion is probably the coolest thing you'll see all summer (and Sena doesn't over use it either; it's shown once and that's it). Look, Swordfish is never going to be confused for a masterpiece of big-budget filmmaking. The movie boasts its share of problems - Berry's character is completely superfluous, the mid-section drags a bit, and there are enough plot holes to fly one of Travolta's jets through - but for what it is, it works. Strap yourself in for the ride and enjoy.

out of

Whiteout

Season of the Witch (July 1/11)

Season of the Witch follows wisecracking 14th-century knights Behman (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) as they're forced to escort a suspected witch (Claire Foy) to a monastery, with the journey bringing the troupe - which also includes Ulrich Thomsen's Eckhart and Stephen Graham's Hagamar - face-to-face with all manner of danger and peril. Though it eventually morphs into a seriously tedious piece of work, Season of the Witch admittedly gets off to a perfectly watchable, better-than-expected start - as the film opens with a striking pre-credits sequence and immediately segues into Behman and Felson's entertaining exploits on the battlefield. The palpable chemistry between Cage and Perlman's respective characters plays an instrumental role in initially cultivating the movie's passable atmosphere, with filmmaker Dominic Sena offering up what feels like, surprisingly (and impressively), a medieval spin on the buddy comedy. It's only as the protagonists embark on their episodic excursion that Season of the Witch begins to lose its hold on the viewer, as Sena employs an incongruously deliberate pace that only serves to highlight the uneventfulness of Bragi F. Schut's screenplay (ie there are simply no standout sequences within the movie's increasingly interminable midsection). The more action-oriented moments within the proceedings fall uniformly flat - eg the heroes are attacked by fake-looking wolves - and it goes without saying that the special-effects-heavy, hopelessly over-the-top finale falls completely and utterly flat. Cage's disappointingly subdued performance stands as the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, with the end result an entirely underwhelming thriller that's rarely as engrossing as its premise might have indicated.

out of