“It’s like looking in a mirror, only not” – Castor Troy
John Woo may no longer be the directing force he once was, but if you were to look at his filmography during the late 80’s and throughout most of the 90’s, he become the frontrunner for bombastic, blockbuster action. With Face/Off, starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, we see Woo reach his peak in Hollywood cinema.
With a concept that bemuses and baffles as much as it amuses and beguiles, Woo’s blend of explosive action and schlocky sci-fi leads to a quintessential 90’s actioner that fully leans in to its ludicrous ideas and directing style. Face/Off is certainly a product of its time. A film that couldn’t (and ultimately shouldn’t) be replicated.
At the forefront of it all is its lead stars Cage and Travolta. Both of which fully understood the assignment as they each deliver not one, but two overly eccentric and entertaining performances in the same movie. Both having to play two ends of the same stick and picking up each other’s mannerisms with delightful (and incredibly humorous) results as they divulge in the wackiness of the movie’s script and overbearing obscenities within its plot.
If you were to strip away the key plot point to this movie, then what’s hidden behind is a fairly generic action romp. That’s not to say that what Woo gives us lacks in entertainment value – that’s one thing this movie can certainly offer – but what it provides with its action gravitas is rather genre basic, even during the time of its release. Slow motion, rambunctious gunfire and classic good guy vs bad guy confrontations.
Watching Castor Troy (Cage/Travolta) and Sean Archer (Travolta/Cage) go head-to-head as the pair continuously attempt to outdo one another is where Woo’s direction really pays off. Although both actors have given better performances, they really become each other’s perfect adversaries and this paring really is one of the best from the genre in that era.
Of course with Hollywood clinging onto the roots of nostalgia for dear life, there is talks of a remake set to see fruition in the near future. A decision I can’t say I’m ecstatic about. There are certainly some lumps throughout Face/Off, but half of the fun of it is that they exist to begin with. It’s better enjoyed if you’re completely willing to shut off, and abandon all belief within its questionable concept. I can see a possible remake attempting to iron out those creases but with it will lose the face value (pun intended) with which this kooky popcorn actioner has set.