A glorious mix of fun and cheese.
A Nicolas Cage verses John Travolta film directed by an iconic action director on paper sounds incredible. Two actors well known for playing wildly eccentric characters and that basically being their persona, Face/Off lives up to that hype, and is one of the most ridiculous 90’s action films, and is just so fun.
Directed by John Woo, known for such Hong Kong action classics such as ‘Hard Boiled,’ ‘The Killer’ and ‘A Better Tomorrow,’ ‘Face/Off’ is an Woo vehicle made for American audiences. Travolta plays Sean Archer, an FBI agent whose young son was murdered by Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) a criminal mastermind who is hell bent on racking up a body count and causing general havoc. The title comes in when Archer switches faces with Troy in a surgical procedure, taking over his persona in order to cripple his criminal empire and their ongoing terror plot. And, Troy eventually gains access to Archer’s face, so Cage and Travolta switch roles.
The plot is just as ridiculous as it sounds, and just as quotable. It is always fun to see Cage do weird stuff, not to mention Travolta, and it is hilarious, especially cause the film takes itself way too seriously.
John Woo’s iconic style has a place in the film though, and that comes in the form of little nuances, such as a presence of Doves as a symbolic device and the action scenes. I wouldn’t say, as a Woo fan, that the scenes are as awesome as his Chow Yun-Fat films, but it is made up for with the pure lovable cheesiness the film oozes, and the action, especially the ending, is incredibly ridiculous, with one scene involving an explosive boat chase and a harpoon gun.
In order to actually enjoy this film though, it has to be treated as a comedy. Evil Cage is hilarious, Evil Travolta is hilarious, and good guy Cage is a protagonist you can get behind, more so than Travolta. If someone goes in expecting a serious film that has to be taken seriously, it won’t be enjoyed.
Face/Off is absolutely a turn off your brain flick. It is one of my favorite 90’s action movies, and while not even comparable to the likes of ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ and ‘Hard Boiled’, it manages to be so off-putting and serious that it works. It is certainly a guilty pleasure of mine. The melodrama that works so well in Woo’s other film just ends up making the film goofy, and while I am sure this film being a cheesy masterpiece isn’t what he was going for, I have loved it since I was a kid, and by far is one of my favorite prime Nic Cage flicks, up there with ‘Snake Eyes,’ ‘Con Air,’ you name it. It is also incredibly rewatchable, and that is thanks to Cage and Travolta being so good in the movie, and making it the unintentional legend that it is.