Face Off is probably one of the strangest action movies of the nineties. Mostly because it features a stylish blend of science fiction and good old action. From experimental medical procedures to hacking and futuristic prisons, everything here feels different than in other, similar movies. I mean, the movie opens with a fucking murder of a five-year-old child! This is something that mainstream movies today would never allow. The action sequences are long but never boring. And there’s something really artistic about them.
Additionally, there are a lot of them. We’ve got car, helicopter, speedboat, and plane chase scenes complete with juicy shootouts and fights at every possible location. At the time Face Off was made, the concept of face transplant was in the realm of science fiction. However, today such procedures are possible and highly successful. The first full-face transplant was done back in 2010, in Turkey. So, today, Face Off would seem just like any other movie.
At least in that regard because that’s not the only reason why this movie is so much fun. The stunts are simply stellar, especially towards the end of the movie. This comes as no surprise since this is a John Woo movie. Do check out his other classic nineties action movie Broken Arrow for more of the same. The script is also pretty tight, offering a lot of snarky remarks and insisting on emotions.
His movies always feature two protagonists, a hero, and an antihero. Only this time, they switch places and see reality from a different angle. Plus, it allows them to let loose a little bit. This let’s say psychological aspect of the movie adds another layer to an already complex movie. A complex movie that feels very simplistic in its nature but all the great ones do. After every unexpected scene, the movie very charmingly leans into the character or the atmosphere. For example, after Castor throws an FBI agent to her death from a plane he musingly shrugs his shoulders at Archer.
After a failed assassination attempt in which he lost his son, FBI Agent Sean Archer is a man looking for revenge. He’s after deranged terrorist for hire, Castor Troy, and his brother Pollux. After placing a bomb somewhere in L.A., they try to flee the country but are ultimately caught. With the knowledge that the bomb is about to go off and kill a lot of people, Archer decides to try a new experimental surgery. Surgery that will make him look like Castor and enable him to find out where’s the freaking bomb. However, things are about to turn to shit for poor Archer.
So, I guess we have to talk about Nic Cage. His unhinged performance here made Face Off that much more fun. Travolta was also good, especially when he channeled his inner Cage. Schwarzenegger and Stallone were the original choices for these two roles but Woo didn’t like that. And I have to agree with him. Without Nic or John, this wouldn’t have been the same movie. I have seen Face Off at least a dozen times over the years and it was always very entertaining. I knew what was going to happen but with the running time of two hours and ten minutes, you tend to miss things.
Like the fact, our homeboy Castor has a couple of joints in his goodies chest. And that fucking boat chase scene at the end is just pure perfection. It lasts for freaking ten minutes and just when you think it’s over, it escalates. Finally, I want to let you know that there’s a sequel in the works! Yes, Face Off 2 will be a direct sequel and since both of our leads are still, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them again. Adam Wingard (Death Note, Godzilla vs. Kong) is set to direct the movie and that’s all the information we have as of the summer of 2022.
Director: John Woo
Writers: Mike Werb, Michael Colleary
Cast: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain, Nick Cassavetes
Fun Facts: Castor Troy’s box contains: a bag of blue pills (Mescaline), sunglasses, three joints, a pack of Chiclets, four pieces of Bazooka Joe bubble gum, a switchblade, and a blue vial (contents unknown).