Face/Off

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

Look out, John Travolta and director John Woo are at it again. This time out it's "Face/Off," a sci-fi flavored action flick that starts out over the top and builds from there.

In "Broken Arrow," Travolta was the bad guy, here he's the bad guy AND the good guy. For reasons far to complicated to go into, Travolta's character, the deeply uninteresting FBI special agent, Sean Archer, is forced to swap identities, and actual faces, with the evil psycho-killer, Castor Troy, played by Nicholas Cage. Sure, Castor's bad news in abundance, but I will say this for him. He knows how to have a good time. Archer, on the other hand, would have to lighten up to be terminally depressed.

Events take a nosedive for our hero, and before you can say oops, Sean is stuck playing Castor in a triple maximum security prison, while Castor is discovering the different sort of hell that is Sean's suburban lifestyle. Here's the twist. Castor begins to take to it, even putting his own special spin on family values and chasing the American dream. As for Sean, he breaks jail only to turn Castor's decadent lifestyle into a heck of a downer.

John Woo is one of the most visually arresting directors working today. No one else has quite his poetic flair for telegraphing menace or choreographing mayhem. (He's the Ballanchine of the genre.) And he's got a good script to work with, light on blood and guts, heavy on snappy comebacks. If a few scenes with co-star Joan Allen aren't A-1 prime, who cares? They're just there to link the runway standoff to the prison riot and the prison break to the FBI raid and the shoot-out in the church to the boat chase.

As for Travolta and Cage, both of them, particularly Travolta, look to be having the time of their lives. And why not? This larger than logic plotline, that has them forever coming back for more just like those energizer bunnies, demands nothing less than pulling out every stop both actors can find.

"Face/Off" is big goofy fun. So turn off those finely-honed critical thinking skills, settle back, and let the games begin.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 6/25/97



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