For some reason, certain critics got a bit snooty about John Woo's testosterone- fuelled action thriller. Its central conceit - that secret service agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) and his arch enemy, terrorist Castor Troy (Nic Cage), effectively come to inhabit each other's bodies - is patently very silly. But to pontificate about the nature of identity when the characters shrug on their new faces and bodies like a second-hand jumper would be sillier still. Anyway, Woo's got more important things to be getting on with, like blowing up everything in sight.
The standard-issue plot involves Archer's attempts to stop Troy exploding a biological weapon in central Los Angeles. When Troy ends up in a coma, Archer is forced into the face-swap in order to elicit information from Castor's neurotic brother, Pollux. Castor perks up and returns the compliment, assuming Archer's identity and killing anyone who knows about the operation. Although Woo doesn't leave much room between bangs for anything other than directorial quips about this personality moonlighting, he keeps the gags prickly. Archer, as Troy, bemuses the latter's friends with an uncharacteristic touchy-feely side, and Troy puts the spark back into Archer's marriage. Travolta has a great time sending up Cage's trademark charismatic belligerence and, conversely, so does Cage with his colleague's portly self-satisaction. 3/5
Wilde (15), Polygram (available to rent now)
Some actors seem to be born with the sole rights to play certain historical characters virtually tattooed across their foreheads. Brian Blessed? Henry VIII, of course. The Fox brothers? Any repressed, pre-war patrician, stupid. And thus Stephen Fry couldn't put off stepping into Oscar Wilde's shoes any longer.
Inevitably, Fry's performance suffers from the burden of expectation that comes with these watershed roles, but not as much as you'd think in Brian Gilbert's well put-together biopic. As he moves swiftly from his doting wife (Jennifer Ehle) to the callow Bosie (Jude Law, who adds backbone along with cheekbones) in recognition of his awakening sexuality, Fry responds to the script's avoidance of a dialogue threaded together by Wilde's greatest hits. Consequently, we get an Oscar permanently vexed by his hopeless love and the neglect of his family and talent.
Gilbert only allows himself a couple of flourishes: a camp mine-shaft lecture Wilde gives in America, and the playwright's cream-suited progress through a street full of black-clad lawyers. Wilde's own children's story, The Selfish Giant surfaces as a gentle moral commentary, but the film isn't as wistful as this device might suggest. If anything, it gloomily charts Wilde's roller-coaster adult life as a one-way trip down a very steep gradient. 3/5Reuse content