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G.I. Jane (15) 125 mins ***

Ridley Scott won plaudits galore from feminists for Thelma 8 Louise, but his latest movie will probably not be getting applause from the same quarter - despite its strong female protagonist. Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore) is a navy intelligence

officer who becomes the first

woman to be accepted for training by the US military's elite commando unit. the Navy SEALS. Tough, smart and not too butch, Jordan has been handpicked by scheming Senator Lillian DeHaven (Anne Bancroft), who has her own axe to grind with the military.

Unsurprisingly, Jordan's arrival at the SEALS' Florida training camp is met with barely concealed hostility by the authorities, who are determined to ensure that she fails the brutal, 'character-building' training. But Jordan grits her teeth, shaves her hair off and endures all the abuse and degradation thrown her way. She successfully turns the tables on her main tormentor, chief instructor John Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen), but still has to out- manoeuvre the manipulative Senator DeHaven - who proves all too ready to sacrifice her pawn - before she gets the chance to prove her mettle in combat on a covert mission in Libya.

G.I. Jane purports to show that women have as much right as men to be dehumanised by the military and turned into killing machines. What it doesn't question is why anyone - male or female - should want to do so. Scott’s pumped-up, overwrought style of direction perfectly fits G.I. Jane's gung-ho spirit. but it’s Moore's humourless, grimly tenacious screen persona that sets the movie's tone. You know she's not faking it when her character shaves her head or puts herself through a punishing regime of one-handed press-ups.

Make war not love: Demi Moore and Viggo Mortensen in G.I. Jane

As impressive as these scenes are, however, Demi's finest moment in the movie comes when Jordan refuses to give in to the sadistic Urgayle - a soldier so macho he dares to wear dinky shorts of a brevity that would make even a 70s footballer blush. 'Suck my dick,’ snarls the battered but defiant Jordan before felling Urgayle with a kick to the crotch that finally wins her the acceptance of her male peers. Demi may not have a dick, but she certainly has balls. (Jason Best)

I General release from Fri 74 Nov.


(18) 133 mins **** fir

The day when an action movie could be dismissed as mere popcorn- munchin' entertainment is over. Director John Woo has upped the odds with a film that delivers a white- knuckle good guy/bad guy thriller with startling stunt set-pieces, but not at the expense of layer upon layer of character psychology and literary allusion.

Sean Archer (John Travolta) is an FBI agent harbouring a personal vendetta against terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas

26 THE U8" 7—20 Nov 1997

Double vision: Nicolas Cage and John Travolta in Face/Off

Cage). When Troy ends up in a coma, Archer undergoes top secret surgery that allows his enemy’s face to be grafted onto his own. A few more body tweaks, and Archer can pass off as the real baddie to get info on where a lethal bomb is hidden.

However, when the bandaged Troy comes out of his deep sleep, he forces the surgeon to carry out the same operation. Archer/Troy and Troy/Archer now slip into each other’s domains - domestic and professional and head for confrontation as, literally, their own worst enemies.

It’s not enough to call Face/Off an

action movie. It has elements of science fiction (the face swap), mistaken identity comedy (Cage relishes his cuckoo-in-the-nest scenes) and horror (Archer, imprisoned within the surface image of the man he most hates, suffers the nightmare of a Frankenstein’s monster). It’s a testament to the actors' abilities that they are able to turn such a ludicrous plot into a film that is emotionally and psychologically rivetting.

Woo’s Hong Kong films notably The Killer portray cops and gangsters as different sides of the same coin, and here he takes his thematic concerns to their limit. The supporting cast is also excellent, and typically formulaic domestic scenes take on a new complexity. Does Mrs Archer (Joan Allen) prefer her new, more passionate husband? Has Troy's girlfriend (Gina Gershon) at last found someone with a fatherly instinct for her young son?

The deeper you dive into the film, the more you discover. But if you’re content with the top level action, then that doesn’t disappoint either. At last, a blockbuster that gives the best of all possible worlds. (Alan Morrison)

I General release from Fri 7 Nov.

Maximum Risk (18) 100 mins **

Jean-Claude Van Damme and his producers gave John Woo his first American break with the flawed Bayou chase pic Hard Target so presumably they thought Ringo Lam, another Hong Kong action specialist, could zap this fairly standard star vehicle with a shot of his trademark high-octane style. '

An adept technician with less of a personal imprint than Woo, Larn’s best known for the heist flick City On Fire, which gave Tarantino the groundplan for Reservoir Dogs. No doubt he was looking for Maximum Risk to make his Hollywood entry in style. What we actually end up with is just another Van Damme movie with the same old high-kicks, fisticuffs and chases assembled with due competence but little of the manic edge found in Lam's Hong Kong work.

As in Double Impact, there are two Van Dammes on the loose. Former French soldier Alain discovers the twin brother he never knew he had, dead on the streets of their home town in the south of France. For reasons much too convoluted to elucidate, this, we discover, is Mikhail, who had long since plied his trade as a runner for the gang bosses of New York’s Russian community. Twin bro is understandably keen to find out who the killers are, so Larry Ferguson's tired screenplay whisks him across the Atlantic to pose as his late sibling and trawl the depths of Little Odessa’s criminal underworld.

Aiding and abetting are Species gal Natasha Henstridge, as Mikhail's girlfriend providing intermittent titillation when the script demands it and French law enforcer Jean-Hugues Anglade, who really knows how to pick duff American projects. Jean- Claude delivers the same energetic but acutely uninvolving performance we've seen in all his other movies, though there's a particularly choice punch-up in a men's sauna that should certainly spark the attention of his gay audience. Calling it Maximum Risk is, shall we say, pushing it a bit. It's all very safe. (John Lynas)

I General release from Fri 7 Nov.

Danger man: Jean-Claude Van Damme in Maximum Risk

STAR RATINGS ***** Unmissable ** * * Very * r: * Wort a shot i * Below average * You've been warned