innocent_man: (labrodors)
[personal profile] innocent_man
Face/Off is a John Woo action flick starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. It's pretty absurd, especially where little things like physics are concerned, but that's kinda par for the course for Woo.

Sean Archer (Travolta) is a high-ranking FBI agent. Castor Troy (Cage) is a terrorist-for-hire. When Troy tries to kill Archer, he accidentally kills Archer's five-year-old son instead (something I never noticed before: Before he takes the shot, Troy looks down at his drink and misses that the boy is snuggled up to his dad; he waits until he thinks the kid is clear before shooting. That's subtle, and I like that it's never called out). Archer, naturally, spends the next X years obsessively tracking Troy and his brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), until he finally catches up with them. Both brothers are caught, but Castor is supposedly killed.

But no, he's just in a coma. And a good thing, too, because there's this bomb that's going to blow up in LA, and only Pollux knows where it is. So, obviously, the only option is an experimental surgical procedure that switches the faces of Archer and Troy (like, literally, they take their faces off and graft Troy's to Archer's head, along with a half-dozen other little procedures to cover the face that Cage is much leaner than Travolta). And then Archer (now in Troy's face and body) goes into Erehwon prison (a secret, illegal prison somewhere in the ocean), talks Pollux into revealing where the bomb is, and all is well...

Oh, except Troy wakes up, has his goons go get the doctor responsible and the two agents who know about the plan (this is all highly illegal so it's off the books), and has the doctor make Troy into Archer. DUN-DUN-DUN. (Oh, then he kills everybody, which personally I think might have been a bit of an oversight. Why not kidnap the doctor and keep him alive, so that he could switch them back eventually? Then again Troy isn't presented as the most lucid of individuals.)

So now Archer has to escape, find Troy, foil his evil plans, convince his wife that he is who he says, blah blah.

The movie actually has some interesting nuance, and it's easy to miss under all the stupid physics. Troy, no matter who's playing him, is gleeful, chaotic and violent, almost Joker-like, but then his brother dies and it's just not fun anymore. He gets it back a little in the final confrontation, but there's an anger and a personal hurt that wasn't there before. The actors really put effort into creating these characters and then playing them differently, and it reads (as does Archer's anguish at having to be Troy). There's almost a moment where Troy starts to understand what he really did to Archer, but it doesn't quite read (at the graveyard; I'd like to know what Travolta was going for there). And then there's the bit in the one gunfight where they wind up pointing guns at mirrors, therefore at the people they'd really like to shoot.

Body count is high, but yeah, it's a Woo film. Lots of slo-mo, some doves at the end. It's a good action flick, and it twigged me a bit when I first saw it, but I was 23 and in a weird place. Now it just is what it is.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low. Little heavy for fun action, little stupid for serious action.

Next up: Fallen


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