Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FACE/OFF (1997) - A 100% medically accurate movie

Once upon a time there was an actor named John Travolta. Before he turned into a fat-faced Scientologist and dressed up as an equally fat woman and sang songs about racial harmony in Hairspray, he had a pretty decent rep as an action star. Thanks to a certain director by the name of John Woo, Travolta got a few good manly roles in flicks like Broken Arrow and Face/Off. This latter movie is in fact Woo's best American movie and to this reviewer, one of the top action films of the 90s.

Travolta in 1997 and Travolta in 2007. No words can suffice. No words.
As is the case with most action movies made during the glorious decade of action movies that was the 1990s, the plot is basically absurd and only serves to set up interesting set pieces. Sean Archer (John Travolta) is a top-notch FBI agent specializing in anti-terrorism and with a personal vendetta against the criminal who shot his bowl haircut wearing son. This terrorist mastermind is none other than Castor Troy, played by Nicolas Cage in one of his most spastic, coked out performances to date. A few years after Castor kills the kid, he is up to no good again the city of Los Angeles, setting up bombs with his brother Pollux. After running into Archer and his team of FBI honchos, they get involved in a chase and firefight (with lots of John Woo slow-motion shots of two handed pistol shooting) at an L.A. airport which ultimately ends up with Castor and Pollux in jail.

The highlight of the airport scene: Nic Cage telling the pilot to "fly bitch!"
But of course, Castor being the criminal genius he is has already planted a huge bomb somewhere in Los Angeles, and he isn't about to give up the location. So Travolta's character has to do the only logical thing, which is to break all of his fingers until he gives up the bomb. Right? Wait, no. Instead he does the second most logical thing, which is to submit himself to an experimental medical procedure to cut off his face and replace it with Castor's face and then infiltrate Castor's criminal crew to disarm the bomb. You following? Of course, there is ZERO potential for things to go wrong here, since agent Archer is promised there is no way the criminal mastermind can escape custody.

If you're in a John Woo movie, you will eventually end up in a standoff. FACT.
In the next scenes, Castor escapes, and sets up the rest of the movie with Travolta and Cage exchanging roles, which makes for some interesting viewing. It is a bit of a shame we don't get to see Cage as the bad guy throughout the movie, since his Castor Troy is wonderfully deranged and just has a certain vibe to him that Travolta can't match. Which is not to say that our favorite Scientologist isn't up to the task. Travolta as Castor works pretty well, and is in any case much more believable than as the do-gooder family man FBI agent.

The acting is pretty over the top from both actors, which aren't really known for their subtlety anyways. Being a John Woo, the action is pretty slick and there's a good number of exciting shootouts and chases. Woo has a well known fetish for slow motion which gets pretty annoying at times, but it works well in Face/Off and just goes to add to the cheese factor which is already pretty high if you hadn't noticed.

The best hair in Hollywood without a doubt.
John Woo has been a director with a somewhat patchy record in America. For every good movie he makes, there are also serious crapfests like Windtalkers and Hard Target. Still, this flick is one of his best and it's no surprise that it is thanks to some batshit crazy performances out of his two leads.

TL;DR - Nicolas Cage shoots a kid, does drugs, gets his face removed and fights Danny Zuko - 8/10


  1. I love this movie. Nick Cage being himself, Trovolta as a bad guy...sort of, and John Woo. White doves. Everywhere.

  2. what is with John Wo and spinning?

  3. Yeah, John Woo has got the strangest fetishes, especially the whole doves thing.

    Thanks for the comments guys!

  4. Travolta the best actor ever :)

  5. Travolta was clearly the best human ever created. However, he seems to have degenerated to a poorly dancing slug. Oh well...

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