Face/Off – 1997
Directed by John Woo
Written by Mike Werb & Michael Colleary
The best goddamn action movie ever made.
FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) has spent the last eight years trying to catch the sadistic terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). When a bust goes awry, Troy is put into a coma, but not before he managed to place a biological weapon somewhere in downtown Los Angeles. Archer has his face altered so he can go undercover as Castor Troy and find out where the bomb is. But it turns out that Troy’s coma isn’t as deep as everyone thought and he decides to do a little face swapping of his own…
Until I saw Face/Off I never realized movies could be so...so…stylish. This flick’s got everything: dual pistols, sweeping crane shots, epic action sequences, and Nic Cage with a porno moustache!! And the slow motion…oh the slow motion. Slo mo gunfights, big slo mo flowing capes, and slo mo doves everywhere. This is the movie that brought Hong Kong action to America, and the first American release where John Woo didn’t have his hands tied by the studio. Face/Off is balls out from start to finish. I can’t decide which moment is my favorite. Travolta killing the guard with the jug of acid? The sweeping helicopter shot on the roof of Erewhon Prison? Nic Cage in a priest outfit having fun with a choirgirl? The porno moustache?
You know how in every Nicolas Cage movie there is that moment where he just goes over the top apeshit? Like screaming “Fuck Mexico!” in Red Rock West or doing the hand thing and saying “Let’s Roll” in Gone in Sixty Seconds, or the entire tracking shot at the beginning of Snake Eyes? In Face/Off he (or his Travolta doppelganger) is like that the whole film, it’s just an overload of Cage-y acting. I know some people that get really annoyed by crazy Nic Cage, and if you are one of them I recommend not watching this.
As much as this movie is an action fetishist’s wet dream and a technical masterpiece, Travolta and Cage deserve lots of praise for their acting. After the two have switched places they begin to ape each other’s acting styles. Essentially for most of the movie you have John Travolta doing his best Nicolas Cage impression, stomping around and screaming random lines, and Cage starts acting like Travolta, plodding through every scene with a slow drawl. Stuff like this gets lost among the gunplay and I had to watch the movie a few times to notice it, but it really added an extra dimension. The movie manages to deal with some serious issues involving loss of identity and how other people’s perceptions affect us.
If there is anything I hate about this movie it’s the super cheesy happy ending. I’m not going to ruin it, even though you can see it coming from a mile away, but after two hours of hardcore adrenaline pumping action, a soft-focus family scene just totally kills the mood.
I find Face/Off to be superior to the few Hong Kong movies I have seen. Sure, if you’re only looking for quality kills and sheer body count, go rent Hard Boiled or The Killer and be amazed. I mean I absolutely love The Killer, watching it is a total rush, I just think that Face/Off is a more complete film.
I could watch this peach for hours.