Monday, May 16, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Matrix

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I take a closer look at a film that is either beloved in spite of its faults or reviled in spite of its virtues, or that simply has such a mix of those two things it's stuck somewhere in between.


Today's subject is the 1999 cyberpunk action smash-hit, The Matrix!  The brainchild of the Wachowskis, The Matrix was a hip, new take on the humanity vs. machines theme that's been explored extensively in science fiction, driven by a capable cast and revolutionary special effects.  It became a touchstone at the time of its release, having such a profound and immediate influence on the genre that its visual tropes had actually become hackneyed by the time the sequels came out four years later.  In a way it was too big a hit for its own good, and the second and third films were viewed as a pretty massive disappointment (As of this moment I have yet to see the fourth film).  But however botched the follow-through on this saga, the first film remains a visually engaging, conceptually neat sci-fi/action vehicle that could've been even more had the producers not dumbed it down for us popcorn-gorging slobs.

So let's take a look at what still works, and what still doesn't, about The Matrix!




The Awesome


Concept

The plot of this movie is super cool.  It's a dystopian future and machines have become self-aware and taken over the world, imprisoning the human race as an energy source while plugging them into a virtual reality designed to keep them pacified and complacent.  Nearly every person left after the apocalypse was born into this matrix, occupying a cryo-pod but under the impression they're all living normal human lives in the late 20th century.  A few resistors like Morpheus got wise and dared to pull back the curtain, hoping to free the others and bring down the machines.  Our main protagonist Neo is a highly sought-after computer programmer/hacker, whom Morpheus believes will be "the one" to free humanity.  It's high-concept sci-fi fun, with lofty, existential themes that are eminently relatable; who wouldn't be able to get behind a small band of heroes trying to save the world?  It's the cinematic embodiment of Rage Against the Machine!





Effects

The special effects invented for The Matrix were possibly the most influential of that era.  Nearly every action sequence features "bullet time" effects, where a computer-controlled ring of cameras rapidly spins around a subject, firing off a single frame in quick succession.  When blended with a CG-modeled background, the effect creates the illusion of time stopping as our hero manipulates space-time within the Matrix.  The martial arts scenes made liberal use of this effect and it was unlike anything ever put to film at that time.  It was so successful and popular nearly every action movie for the next few years ripped it off in some form, even when it didn't make sense in context (which was usually the case - see Charlie's Angels or Mission Impossible 2).  The visual effects here were hugely groundbreaking.

This move was so popular WWE wrestler Trish Stratus started using it.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Top Ten Things: Owen Hart Matches

Welcome to a special Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today is the anniversary of what was for me the most tragic death in wrestling history, that of Owen Hart.


For those of you not familiar (by this point that's probably no one), on May 23, 1999 Owen was the victim of a horrific stunt gone wrong, when the harness in which he was supposed to descend from the ceiling released prematurely, causing Owen to fall 70 feet to his death.  Owen was 34 years old.  Unlike so many untimely pro wrestling deaths, Owen's wasn't the result of drugs or steroids or neglect of his health.  Owen was a happily married family man who had planned to retire early from wrestling to enjoy a quiet life as a father and husband.  I've said for years that if I could go back and save one person in the wrestling business from dying young, it would be Owen.  He deserved to live a long, content life and enjoy the fruits of his success.

In the ring Owen was possibly the most athletically gifted of all the Harts, possessing a natural grace and agility surpassing even Bret's.  Bret may have been more technically sound, but Owen seemed innately suited for pro wrestling, employing a mix of grappling and aerial techniques that made him one of the most well-rounded performers of his generation.

Owen toiled in the WWF undercard for a few years before finally getting a big heel push as Bret's disgruntled little brother.  The two had a legendary feud, tearing the house down every time they met, and as a result Owen became one of the most dependable top names in the company, eventually winning every available heavyweight title except the big one (Whenever I'm asked who was the best wrestler never to win a world title, my two answers are always Owen and Davey Boy).  Then in 1997 Bret and Owen, now both heels, reunited to form the new Hart Foundation stable, prompting the best feud of that year which pitted the American wrestlers (and fans) against the Harts (and basically all non-American fans).  On the back of this unprecedented feud, the WWF churned out must-see television nearly every week, and Owen was a huge part of it all.

After Bret's messy WWF departure (along with Davey Boy and Jim Neidhart), Owen was the only Hart Foundation member left, and as an old-school character he struggled to fit into the new WWF Attitude era.  Owen enjoyed modest success for his remaining time in the company, but was repeatedly asked to take part in sexualized angles with which he wasn't comfortable.  The compromise was repackaging him as a dorkier version of the Blue Blazer (his 1989 persona), hence the fateful ceiling descent on May 23rd.

It's a shame the company wasn't able to find something more dignified for him to do, or wasn't willing to release him from his contract when Bret left.  In either scenario he'd undoubtedly still be with us today.

Owen was a one-of-a-kind talent who left the wrestling industry better than he found it, who was beloved by all who worked with him, and who stayed true to himself and his family in a business where such a thing was increasingly rare.  Two decades later, the wrestling business still feels incomplete without him.

Now let's take a look at his best matches.....




Honorable Mention: Owen Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid - King of the Ring - 6.19.94


Yeah I know, this match only went 3-1/2 minutes, but holy lord what a match considering.  These two packed about as much action into 217 seconds as you possibly could, delivering one of only two good matches on this PPV.  Owen made the Kid submit with a Sharpshooter in this semi-final match, on his way to becoming the second PPV King of the Ring.  It's a great illustration of what Owen (and X-Pac) were capable of even with severe time constraints.





10. Owen Hart & British Bulldog vs. Vader & Mankind - WrestleMania 13 - 3.23.97


One of the forgotten WrestleMania gems was this rare heels vs. heels Tag Title match, where Owen and Davey had teased splitting up for weeks.  Owen had become jealous of all the attention Davey was getting, particularly after Davey bested him to become the inaugural European Champion.  Between the champs not being on the same page and the physical dominance of Vader and Mankind, it looked like we might see a title change here, but this wild brawl ended unceremoniously with a double countout, as Mankind subdued Davey with a Mandible Claw on the outside.  A better finish would've undoubtedly elevated this match, but as it was I still consider this one very underrated.


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Fifth Element

Welcome back to Enuffa.com, and welcome to yet another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I suck all the enjoyment out of one of America's most beloved popcorn films and demonstrate why I don't get invited to parties anymore.

Today I'll be dissecting Luc Besson's 1997 sci-fi epic The Fifth Element - a richly visual, futuristic action vehicle, starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm and Milla Jovovich.  This film was released at the start of the 1997 summer movie season, and while not a success in the United States, made a killing overseas.  The story centers around a battle of good vs. evil, life vs. death, as a cosmic force threatens the existence of all life in the universe unless the five elements are assembled to stop it.  Caught up in the middle of this war is Korben Dallas, a former special forces officer now driving a cab for a living.  Dallas is recruited to deliver "the fifth element" - a supreme being in the guise of a young woman named Leeloo - to an alien in possession of four stones representing the other four elements, so they may be used to save the universe.


This is a pretty goofy premise if I'm being honest, and were it not for Luc Besson's gleeful abandon and quite obvious love for the project (plus several other factors), this film would likely belong in a compost heap.

But let's examine the reasons this movie is actually quite delightful, and then we'll talk about what could've been improved.


The Awesome

Casting

What first attracted me to this film, and what immediately sets it apart from its B-movie schlock brethren, is its first-rate cast.  Bruce Willis is typecast but perfect as the reluctant everyman hero Korben Dallas, whose life as a cabby seems unbecoming of a former decorated soldier.  Dallas lives a lonely existence in a shoebox apartment with only his cat for companionship.  In Leeloo he sees a chance for redemption and a sense of purpose.  Milla Jovovich is quirky, often goofy, but also quite touching in the role of Leeloo.  Despite being a superpowered alien she projects vulnerability and makes us identify with and care about this strange person.  Ian Holm improves every film he's in, and his turn as Vito Cornelius is no exception.  Cornelius is the priest entrusted with being the caretaker of the five elements, and Holm's performance brings instant credibility to the project, much as Alec Guinness did for Star Wars.  And last but certainly not least, Gary Oldman once again steals the show as the villainous, slimy weapons dealer Zorg, who is also after the elemental stones.  Boasting a southern accent and oversized front teeth, Oldman is almost unrecognizable as this craven but charismatic scoundrel.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Top Ten Things: Weird Al Yankovic Albums, RANKED

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be talking about a musical legend.  And a comedy legend.  And a certified genius (Seriously, he skipped second grade and was senior year valedictorian at sixteen).


Weird Al Yankovic burst into the American lexicon in 1984 with an off-beat parody of a Michael Jackson hit, and has somehow managed to build a hugely successful thirty-plus-year career lampooning our most cherished pop music stars.  As an eight-year-old Michael Jackson fanatic I was initially offended that anyone would parody one of his songs, but Al won me over when I first saw the video for "Eat It."  Here was a dorky, bespectacled nerd mimicking all of Jackson's dance moves (badly I might add) and conjuring comedy from already-tired rock video imagery.  By age twelve I'd bought all of Al's records, and I've been a huge fan ever since.  In 2000 I got to see Al from the front row, and he even yelled at me for not singing along to "Dare to Be Stupid."  It was indeed a privilege.  Twenty-two years later I took my son to see his Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, a proud inter-generational moment. 

Despite originating as a zany novelty act on comedy radio, Weird Al's career has endured a staggering four decades.  For many artists, being parodied by Al is a badge of honor, a sign that they've truly "made it."  Al is like a pop culture mirror, making light of our society's latest fads and popular music heroes.  While he seems to be all done putting out full albums, he still pops up every so often with a new video to remind us he's still out there, ready to either lampoon or pay homage to whatever's grabbing headlines.

Here now are my ten favorite Weird Al Yankovic albums....




14. Polka Party!


It should come as no surprise that the album which nearly derailed Al's career ranks last.  Without the benefit of a strong single to help move sales ("Livin' With a Hernia" is a fun James Brown parody but didn't exactly light up the charts the way "Eat It" or "Like a Surgeon" did), Polka Party! would need to overachieve as a cohesive album.  Sadly it did not; the album's parodies tackled mostly less-than-memorable material, while its originals were largely pretty pedestrian.  The Talking Heads-inspired "Dog Eat Dog" and the Phil Spector-style "Christmas at Ground Zero" serve as a pair of standouts, but beyond those, Polka Party! lacks a strong catalogue of original tunes to make up for the rather uninspired slate of parodies.  Thankfully Al's career would resurge in a big way two years later with the release of Even Worse.

Key Tracks: Livin' With a Hernia, Dog Eat Dog, Christmas at Ground Zero






13. Alapalooza


Cashing in on both the mammoth success of Jurassic Park and the alternative music tour Lollapalooza, Al's 8th album dropped in 1993 and didn't quite make the splash its predecessor Off the Deep End did.  It probably didn't help that the lead single was a parody of an old 1960s tune rather than a hot 1993 alternative chart-topper (though Al's "Jurassic Park" song is pretty great).  Al did send up the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away" and "Under the Bridge," with mixed results (RHCP bassist Flea expressed disappointment in Al's choice of The Flintstones as the song's inspiration), and Aerosmith's "Livin' on the Edge," returning to the subject of food, in this case the kind that's been in the fridge too long.  The original songs on this album were a letdown for me, aside from the excellent REM-esque "Frank's 2000" TV."  To my mind "Traffic Jam," "Waffle King" and "She Never Told Me She Was a Mine" sounded like outtakes from previous albums.  But Alapalooza does finish strong with "Bohemian Polka," a sped-up, accordion-driven version of Queen's megahit "Bohemian Rhapsody."  Overall though, Alapalooza is one of his weakest efforts, and the worst of his 1990s output.

Key Tracks: Jurassic Park, Frank's 2000" TV, Bohemian Polka





12. Straight Outta Lynwood


Notable for boasting Al's highest-charting single "White & Nerdy" (a parody of "Ridin" by Chamillionaire), Al's 12th album was from a commercial standpoint another career highlight.  Other parodies include "Canadian Idiot," based of course on Green Day's "American Idiot," "Confessions Part III," a sendup of Usher's "Confessions Part II," and the epic "Trapped in the Drive Thru" based on R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet."  The originals on this album are quite varied, with "Pancreas" parodying the style of The Beach Boys, "I'll Sue Ya" capturing the sound of Rage Against the Machine, and probably the strongest original "Don't Download This Song" going after 1980s all-star charity tunes like "We Are the World."  Overall SOL is ambitious and sonically diverse, but not all of it landed for me.  Still it was satisfying to see Al achieve such mainstream success once again.

Key Tracks: White & Nerdy, Pancreas, Don't Download This Song





11. Bad Hair Day


Falling just shy of the top ten is Al's 1996 return to prominence after the critical and commercial disappointment of Alapalooza.  The ninth album in Al's catalog surged to double-platinum status largely on the back of "Amish Paradise," a parody of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise."  Coolio infamously disapproved of Al using his song as comedy fodder and publicly objected, though Al did get written permission from Coolio's management to use the song.  This was ironic considering the Coolio tune is itself a reworking of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise."  Aside from the hit single, Bad Hair Day boasts an excellent parody of Presidents of the USA's "Lump," about Forrest Gump, some standout originals such as "Everything You Know is Wrong" the a cappella "Since You've Been Gone," and "The Night Santa Went Crazy," and maybe his best-ever polka medley, "The Alternative Polka," which makes use of numerous mid-90s grunge and alternative hits.  Bad Hair Day is a bit uneven but contains enough standout tunes to almost make the vaunted top ten.

Key Tracks: Amish Paradise, The Alternative Polka, Gump





10. UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff


The soundtrack to Al's 1989 summer flop sadly didn't fare much better than its film counterpart, but it did contain some fun parodies and solid originals, plus a few snippets of the film itself.  Al's spoof of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing," which is essentially the Beverly Hillbillies theme set to different music, was accompanied by an excellent sendup of the Straits video.  Other highlights were "Spam," based on REM's "Stand," and two hilarious originals, "Generic Blues," which literally just recycles all the woe-is-me blues lyrical tropes, and folk-rock epic "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," which recounts in great detail a trip to go see the World's Largest Twine Ball (Yes, such a thing actually exists).  Released at a time when a) the summer movie season was quite cluttered (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Star Trek V, and Lethal Weapon 2), and b) Weird Al's record sales were somewhat contingent on including a Michael Jackson parody, this album and film kinda got lost in the shuffle (though UHF has since become a cult classic).  But it's not too shabby at all and shows evidence of Al's growth as a musician.

Key Tracks: Generic Blues, Spam, The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota





9. Dare to Be Stupid


Al's third album, and the first musical comedy album to see a CD release, showed that Al was growing beyond his reputation as "that funny guy who does the Michael Jackson parody."  With songs like "Like a Surgeon," "I Want a New Duck," and the superb "Yoda" (based on The Kinks' "Lola"), Al was attempting to last beyond the fifteen-minute lifespan most gave him.  But it's in the original songs where this album really achieves.  Style parodies like the hilariously descriptive doo-wop ballad "One More Minute" and the Devo-inspired title track demonstrated Al's gift for recreating different genres (Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh once said that "Dare to Be Stupid" captured the exact sound he himself had been trying to create).

Key Tracks: Dare to Be Stupid, One More Minute, Yoda

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Followups

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be talking about some slightly-hidden gems given the unenviable task of directly following WrestleMania.  Every year 'Mania seems to play out like a season finale of sorts, with long-running angles and feuds being resolved, and new stories beginning.  But with no off-season, WWE marches right on to the next PPV (formerly In Your House and Backlash, now Extreme Rules) and has to assemble a show that could easily come off as anticlimactic given its position on the PPV calendar.  Some years though, the 'Mania followup PPV has actually outclassed The Show of Shows and presented one or more Match of the Year candidates.  Backlash 1999 and 2000 for example were far and away superior to 'Mania 15 and 16 respectively.  Ditto for Extreme Rules 2011 and 2012.  Not so much for Payback 2017....

Here now are the Top Ten Matches from Post-WrestleMania PPVs.



10. The Shield vs. Evolution - Extreme Rules 2014


This dream match of sorts was a wild, action-packed example of faction warfare.  The Shield had recently turned against The Authority, and Triple H retaliated by reassembling his most accomplished stable, now consisting of three former WWE/World Champions.  Now I had hoped for an 8-man WarGames-style match including Daniel Bryan and Kane, and I still think WWE dropped the ball by not booking that match after it was so perfectly set up the night after WM30.  That said though, this six-man delivered huge and further established The Shield as the most dominant faction in years.




9. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar - Extreme Rules 2012


Brock Lesnar's WWE return was an absolutely huge deal.  After an eight-year hiatus Lesnar reappeared on RAW the night after WrestleMania 28 and left John Cena laying in a heap.  A No Holds Barred match was immediately signed for Extreme Rules, and would be the first signature "Brock Lesnar" match, where he employed both pro wrestling and MMA techniques to create a unique, big-fight atmosphere.  The match began with Lesnar brutally bloodying Cena with hard elbows to the forehead, marking the first WWE use of significant "color" in several years.  This groundbreaking fight showcased a dominant Lesnar performance until the very end, when Cena evened the playing field with a chain and got a shocking (and in retrospect terribly ill-advised) win over the returning Beast.  It took some time for WWE to properly use Lesnar during his post-UFC run (His record after one year back was 1-2!), but fortunately they soon remembered that Brock Lesnar is supposed to destroy everything in sight, and worked much harder to preserve his drawing power.




8. Mankind vs. Big Show - Backlash '99


After a tremendously disappointing first-time matchup at WrestleMania XV, Mankind and The Big Show redeemed themselves with this brutal Boiler Room Brawl.  The inaugural Backlash event one-upped 'Mania 15 in every way, and this match was everything the first encounter wasn't.  Mankind brought his typically high pain threshold, taking a brutal table spot and cutting his hand on a pane of glass before escaping the boiler room.  Not only did this match steal the show at Backlash '99 but I consider it the far better of the two Boiler Room Brawls.




7. Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack - Backlash 2004


Another Foley classic, this time Mick donned the red & black flannel and trimmed way down to resurrect his original in-ring persona, Cactus Jack.  Randy Orton was just gaining traction as a future main event player, and Foley made sure he looked like a million bucks.  This outlandish, violent Street Fight featured barbed-wire bats, thumbtacks, falls off the stage, and buckets of blood.  The enduring image for me is of Orton taking a bump, barebacked, on a pile of thumbtacks.  Simply one of the most grisly moments I can recall in a wrestling match.



Wednesday, May 4, 2022

WWE WrestleMania Backlash 2022 Preview & Predictions

This Sunday it's time for the PPV WWE wants to trick you into thinking is more important than it really is by putting the name WrestleMania in front of it, Backlash!


Yes, in case you weren't sure what the original intent of the name Backlash was, occurring one PPV cycle after 'Mania, they dumbed it down a shade for ya.  This lineup is rather skimpy with a scant six matches, only one of which is for a championship, but I'm sure they'll find a way to load it up with pointless video packages and stretch it well over three hours.  Anyway, once you scrape off the two pointless bouts at the bottom, the remaining four look very good on paper.  Of course numerous important talents are missing, as usual.



Bobby Lashley vs. Omos


Oh good, the worst scheduled match at either night of WrestleMania gets a rematch, and this time Bobby Lashley is a full-fledged babyface, while his former manager MVP has pulled a 2002 Paul Heyman and dumped the former champion for a giant with a poor track record.  This turn of events makes zero sense; why would MVP front-run for a guy who LOST at 'Mania?  This match is going to be pure drivel and sadly since he lost at 'Mania, the immobile, incompetent Omos is going to pick up a win here.

Pick: Omos




Baron Corbin vs. Madcap Moss


What in the holy fuck is this match doing on a PPV while Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Damian Priest, Becky Lynch, Asuka, Rhea Ripley, Bianca Belair, hell, even Austin Theory (whom Vince apparently sees as the next John Cena, until some other shiny new object catches his attention anyway) are sitting in catering?  God I hate this company. 

Pick: Who gives a tupenny fuck?  Moss I guess.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Rock

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  For those just joining us in progress, ASM is a regular feature where I pick apart a film that neither qualifies as a particularly good film nor as a piece of junk.  Every movie spotlighted in this column is something I either enjoy despite itself, or a movie that could be really good if the filmmakers just got out of their own way.

Today's ASM is the 1996 Michael Bay action vehicle, The Rock, starring Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery and Ed Harris.  The Rock tells the story of a former US General who hijacks Alcatraz Island, taking 80 civilians hostage, and threatens to launch a poison gas missile into San Francisco if his demands aren't met.  The US Government, not wanting to negotiate, sends in a team of Navy Seals, plus a former Alcatraz inmate who knows how to enter the prison undetected, and a chemical weapons expert to disarm the missiles.  As expected, things don't quite go according to plan and all hell breaks loose in the prison.


So why was The Rock both good and bad?  Let's find out....


The Awesome

Lead Actors/Characters

The Rock really begins and ends with its three lead actors. 

Nicolas Cage is spot-on as Stanley Goodspeed, the everyman type who's been thrust into an extraordinary situation and repeatedly survives by the skin of his teeth.  He is our eyes and ears throughout the story, keeping his head down during the intense action and letting the more experienced military characters do the heavy lifting while he concentrates on disarming missiles.  The fact that he has a pregnant girlfriend waiting for him at home adds consequence and sympathy to his plight; we reaaaallly hope he gets out of this alive.

Sean Connery as John Mason essentially plays an older James Bond type - a grizzled SAS veteran brought in to show the Navy Seals how to get in and out of the prison.  When we first meet him, Mason has been imprisoned by the US Government for 30 years without being charged, for refusing to divulge classified information.  During the ensuing combat, Mason is always in control of the situation and never gets rattled.  He forms an unlikely bond with Goodspeed and more or less guides/protects him (and us) through the action.  Mason initially wants to run once the shit hits the fan, but Goodspeed reminds him that his daughter would be within the blast radius if the bad guys launch their missiles.  So he has to juggle helping Goodspeed while also planning his escape at the end.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Face/Off

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll examine a movie that is horribly entertaining but also entertainingly horrible.

Today's entry in the series is John Woo's 1997 action thriller, Face/Off



Face/Off stars John Travolta as FBI agent Sean Archer, whose son was killed by his arch-nemesis Castor Troy, a manic, sadistic terrorist played by Nicolas Cage.  Six years later Troy announces to the FBI that there's a bomb hidden somewhere in Los Angeles which could potentially kill millions of people.  The FBI attempts to capture Troy in an ambush but Troy ends up in a coma before they can learn the location of the bomb.  After unsuccessfully interrogating every member of Troy's gang, Archer reluctantly submits to a radical new procedure wherein his face will be removed and replaced with Castor's, allowing him to impersonate his enemy and infiltrate the maximum security prison where Castor's brother/accomplice Pollux is being held.  Archer's subterfuge fools Pollux, who reveals the bomb's location, but before Archer can arrange his release from prison, the real Castor Troy emerges from his coma, forces the surgeon to apply Archer's face to his, and then kills everyone who knew about the procedure.  The real Sean Archer is now trapped in prison as Castor Troy, while the real Castor Troy takes over Archer's life.

This is one of the most convoluted premises of any action movie I've ever seen, but somehow the filmmakers managed to pull a pretty entertaining piece of crap out of what probably should've been a disastrous effort.  So let's take a look at what worked and what didn't.



The Awesome

John Travolta & Nic Cage

First and foremost, the two leads do an excellent job in this film of convincing the audience that a) this scenario is at all believable and b) that for most of the film's running time they are each playing the opposite character.  Travolta plays Archer as a spiritually broken man, haunted by the death of his son and consumed with catching the bastard who killed him.  His relationships with his wife and daughter are in shambles and the only thing that will bring him peace is taking Troy down.  Cage plays Troy as a high-wire act - oozing evil charisma and relishing his own depravity. 


When the ol' switcheroo occurs, each actor gets to explore the other character.  Cage as Archer brings an even greater sense of melancholy and develops a rather tender relationship with Troy's girlfriend Sasha (Gina Gershon), while Travolta's Troy rekindles the romance with Archer's wife (Joan Allen), and is actually able to identify with Archer's troubled teenage daughter (Dominique Swain).  He also becomes an FBI hero when he locates and diffuses his own bomb and uses all the Bureau's resources to chase down "Castor Troy."  Both actors are fantastic in both roles and have a lot of fun imitating each other.