FACE/OFF (1997) 

[Get the Poster]

John Travolta
Nicolas Cage
Joan Allen
Gina Gershon
Alessandro Nivola
Dominique Swain
Nick Cassavetes
Harve Presnell
CCH Pounder
Margaret Cho

John Woo



Time: 138 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Action/Drama

Academy Award nomination for Sound Effects Editing.

There's no denying that John Woo is a fantastic action director. The way he moves the camera and sets up his stunts are unlike anything that American filmmakers produce. But a film should be about more than the next gun battle or explosion. And even though the acting in FACE/OFF is a sight to behold, it is at times so over-the-top that I didn't know who was going to vomit from sheer scene-chewing first, Travolta or Cage.

To begin with, Cage is this ultra mean criminal that Travolta, an FBI agent, has been trying to capture for years, not only for his various atrocities against the general populace but because he killed Travolta's young son. This is the first thing I had a problem with. Travolta's son is killed in a public place by a sniper with a bullet meant for him. If he didn't see the killer how does he know it was Cage? Being an FBI agent, I'm sure he had many enemies. But he's just sure it was Cage, so he just hates, hates, hates him. Whatever.

Cage is finally captured, but is injured trying to escape, winding up in a supposed irreversible coma. He is a vegetable, or so the doctors say. This makes Travolta very happy, except for one thing. Cage planted a bomb somewhere in Los Angeles right before he was captured and it's scheduled to detonate within a few days. In order to find out where the bomb is, Travolta goes along with this top secret plan only two people in his organization know about to undergo this leading edge plastic surgery technology which will give him Cage's face so he can infiltrate the jail as Cage and get the info from Cage's brother. Why they didn't just beat it out of the brother, I'll never know. Then again, if they had, there wouldn't be a movie.

They also implant a microchip in Travolta's throat so he'll sound like Cage as well. So now, we have Cage, pretending to be Travolta pretending to be Cage. And Travolta pretending to be Cage pretending to be Travolta. Believe it or not, this part of the film works. They each got to play both characters which must have been quite a unique acting experience. You'd think that it would be hard to make the characters consistent, but it shows their acting expertise because they nailed them. I never doubted either's performance.

"We are a covert anti-terrorist team that is so secret, when we snap our fingers NOTHING HAPPENS!"

It only gets more insane from here...and this was only the first half hour, forty minutes of this 2 1/2 hour film (way too long for an action movie). Travolta/Cage is put into the prison where he has to play the part of this killer in order to convice the brother to trust him while trying not to be killed. Of course, the real Cage wakes up without a face, demands that the doctors give him Travolta's and craziness ensues. Cage/Travolta is a maniac, so he kills the doctors, destroys the lab and wipes away any trace of this procedure, trapping both of them in the role/body of their enemy. Needless to say, Cage likes Travolta's life – he sleeps with his wife and flirts with his daughter (very disturbing scene) – especially the power of it. He is a free man and he's not about to go back to his old life.

Because he knows where the bomb is, Cage/Travolta saves the day and gets promoted to boot. Travolta/Cage is horrified when he comes face-to-face with himself, embodied by Cage and breaks out of the prison only to be hunted down by Cage/Travolta who now has all the means necessary to make sure Travolta/Cage is killed and out of "his" life once and for all. This is where all of the gun battles occur and though they are beautiful to watch, they go on way too long. There are also way to many of them. These are supposed to be crack FBI forces and they can't seem to kill or capture one man?

The ending is absurd with everyone and their daughter thrown in as potential victims. It takes a good 20-25 minutes for this mano-e-mano battle to be completed and in the end you don't care who dies, you just want it to be over. In my opinion, the only people who should come back from the dead are villians in horror movies and even that's pushing it. When people are crushed into a bloody pulp, they don't get back up and continue their murderous ways. They DIE. Period. Enough with this already. It's not even a surprise anymore, because everyone does it. Yeah, yeah, he's not quite dead yet, let's move it along.

If you like action movies, you will most likely enjoy FACE/OFF. The acting is also quite a treat even if the plot jumps way over the line of the absurd. I guess if it doesn't bother any of the principles it shouldn't bother me.

home | reviews | actors | actresses | film heaven | all reviews