Face/Off is a quintessential 90s action movie. Its directed by a classic 90s action director in John Woo. It stars two actors at the height of their action hero credentials in John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. It is also a ridiculous concept which just about works with a lot of suspension of disbelief.
Face/Off gets by on good-will because Cage and Travolta go for this full tilt. They understand the stakes, the ridiculous concept and that anything goes, so they play their roles perfectly. For an actor, this is actually a fairly meaty role with a decent idea, as Travolta’s good guy cop, Sean Archer takes the identity (including the face) of villain Castor Troy, so he can go undercover and catch him. In a shocking twist though, Cage’s villain discovers the plan and steals the face of the hero, assuming his identity.
Its very silly and you have to look past the concept which is played fairly seriously. What it does mean is we get a great dynamic where Cage sets the tone for the crazed villain which Travolta then emulates brilliantly and in a great piece of casting, Travolta plays the earnest family-man hero which Cage then, playing against type, recreates himself.
What this sets-up is some fantastic scenes between the two actors who work perfectly together, clearly having fun. There are some great set-pieces and the sequence where Cage finds himself in prison, trapped in the villain’s body, could be a movie in itself. The film sets-up a futuristic style prison, some great supporting characters and an element to the story which works really well.
Its just a shame that this isn’t sustained for the whole movie. The film can’t maintain this unique element of the idea and unfortunately, strip this away, which by the third act it feels like it has been, and the movie becomes a generic actioner. There are some good sequences but nothing too unique and while not quite predictable, it certainly isn’t ground-breaking and you’ll feel like you’ve seen it before.
There are also some sections which get a bit creepy, with Travolta as Troy pushing the boundaries of decency with his “daughter.” Above all though, its very silly and you do struggle to get past these elements. The whole idea is based on a ridiculous plot point which is just about saved by the central actors.
Overall, Face/Off has all the elements you’d expect from a classic 90s actioner, but the unique twist of a premise aside, struggles to be too unique and becomes fairly generic. Its saving grace is Travolta and Cage who play both their roles perfectly and have enough chemistry to pull the film through.
Rating – 3
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