Face/Off (1997)

face off IMDb

Face/Off is such a crazy, implausible, ridiculous movie that you can’t help but enjoy it. I don’t know what it is about this movie that I’m able to turn off my brain while watching, when I seem incapable of doing so with others. Maybe because this movie doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, despite some serious acting from John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.

This movie really bugged me when it was first released. I mostly hated the title and it’s dual meaning (they take their faces off, and then they face off), but I also wasn’t crazy for John Travolta or Nicolas Cage. I’m still not, to be perfectly honest. Unless I’m watching Grease or National Treasure I’m just not that into them. And yet, the two combined are actually quite good. Perhaps I’ve gained a level of maturity, or maybe I’m just softening as I age, but I rather enjoyed watching Face/Off this time around.

Obviously the highlight of this movie is when Travolta and Cage play each other. Travolta is an FBI agent who goes undercover as Cage, a terrorist, to stop his latest plot. This involves face transplants, voice modifiers, and prisons with magnetic floors, but it’s best not to dwell too much on the details. Instead focus on how well Travolta impersonates Cage, and vice versa. It really is a treat to watch.

Rating: C+

This is such a fun movie. I need to point out that Face/Off is completely implausible, none of this could ever happen, but I think in order to enjoy the film you need to let go of all sense of believability and enjoy this film for what it is, an awesome action film.

John Travolta stars as special agent Sean Archer. He has been trying to catch the villainous Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) for years. Troy murdered Archer’s young son so this rivalry is personal for him. Early on in the film Troy is captured and left in a coma during the arrest, but he has left a large bomb in the middle of Los Angeles. In order to find the bomb, Archer must use state of the art technology to put Troy’s face onto his and go undercover in prison with Castor’s brother (Allesandro Nivola) and hope he can tell him the location of the bomb. Of course, while this mission is taking place, the real Troy (minus his face) awakes from his coma, and forces the doctor to put Archer’s face onto his. He then kills everyone who knew about this covert operation, leaving Sean Archer (in Nicolas Cage’s face), rotting I prison, while evil John Travolta takes credit for defusing the bomb and taking on terrorists. Archer must escape from prison and get his life back, with the help of some of Castor’s old partners and his former lover (Gina Gershon).

This is a riot of a movie. Director John Woo is fantastic at making explosions happen. He is something of an action movie professional and it is all on show in this film. Obviously, if you’ve read my synopsis above, you will understand that this movie cuts a lot of corners when it comes to producing a believable script, but the performances of Cage and Travolta are so good you are happy to go along on this fun action packed ride. This film was made at a time when Cage was something of an action hero, he’d already made The Rock and Con Air was coming not long after this. Face/Off was the best movie of his heyday. Travolta was experiencing an career resurrection when this film came. He was a has-been until the mid-90s when Quentin Tarantino cast him as a sleazy hit man in Pulp Fiction. Travolta used that Oscar nominated role to revitalise his film career. I really enjoyed Travolta in this movie. He is having a lot of fun when he gets to ham it up as Castor Troy, but is also believable as the obsessive workaholic cop who just wants to catch his son’s killer. Both leads make this action flick a big hit. Their performance is able to make you forget about any plot problems or story implausibility and just enjoy the ride.

Rating: B

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