So I’m finally sitting down, post-work, post-workout, content to settle into a show with no expectations other than a final unraveling of the day, yet before the 30-minute mark, I’m ready to throw in the towel. Not just ready – I do give up, without much of a fight, which is uncharacteristic of me. I usually only storm out of movies at the movies. (Steve Martin and Queen Latifah’s Bringin’ Down the House and whatever Scary Movie parody that I got talked into factor as two features that I cinematically abandoned.)
At home upon finding something intolerable, I usually grit my teeth and bore my way through to the end like the trouper I envision myself, often because I can brush out a dog or cut my toenails or focus on something, anything productive while I suffer. No more. I can’t sit through John Woo’s 1997 Face/Off – even while I’m assiduously seeding a pomegranate.
And I’m attaching blame for this personal failure – following a lousy show to its end credits – to the always available streaming series Mad Men. When I am feeling dissatisfied with any viewing, a supercilious voice in the back of my head, not quite my subconscious but close to it, crows:
“This is absolute crap. You know you would rather be watching Mad Men. Yeah, you’re trying to pace yourself and not burn through it like Breaking Bad or Battlestar Galactica, but c’mon, you’re only in season three, and don’t you want to watch something made by a team who knew what they were doing and gave a shit?”
Sit through more exposions and slow-motion gunfights or check in with Sal and Joan? This is no contest. The cups that they are drinking from hold more interest for me than the myriad of extras getting winged in a John Woo’s bombastic battles.
I don’t switch directly to Mad Men because I do exhibit some degree of self-control, and the series works better for me on a weekly rotation anyway. Sometimes, heaven help me, I just shut off the screen.
This is precisely what happened with my aborted attempt at Face/Off. Oh, how many times in the 90s did I glance at this at Nationwide Video and dismiss it immediately? Score one for instinct.
Still, I do find myself in the mood for an action film now and again, and even more often do I have an inexplicable craving for a Nicolas Cage performance, knowing full well what I’m in for. Face/Off should have been my ticket.
Oh, but how it was not. While John Woo is sometimes described as setting an operatic tone as a director, I find him simply bombastic, as if I’m being screamed at – literally by the actors he has no control over, and figuratively by his overblown presentation. OK, Nicolas Cage is going nutso; that is what I signed on for. But do I have to see it in slow motion?
Anyway, I may just as well leave with the scene that left me begging for mercy. I stopped somewhere during the endless gun battle inside the airport hangar.
Yes, even Margaret Cho found a place in that gun-crazy melee. Does she have a take on participating in Face/Off? Because CCH Pounder sure did!
I feel empty and impotent in my inability to pronounce definitive condemnations. I can’t even say that I hated Face/Off because I didn’t really watch it. I really couldn’t. I’m a purist and a completist, and Mad Men is ruining my relationships with terrible shows.