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Overall Rating
4.15

Awesome58.72%
Worth A Look: 16.28%
Average: 12.21%
Pretty Bad: 6.98%
Total Crap: 5.81%

9 reviews, 118 user ratings


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Face/Off
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Woo's American masterpiece."
5 stars

'Face/Off,' the third film made in this country by the action master John Woo ('Hard Target' and 'Broken Arrow' were the others), is a triumph of graceful chaos. Bodies spin and hurtle through the air, shooting or getting shot at -- always in rapturous slow motion that recalls the balletic carnage of Sam Peckinpah. Yet Woo also finds another kind of grace: a rich and intense emotional context for the mayhem. The movie is often preposterous but never meaningless.

Woo's best films (The Killer, Hard Boiled) aren't just bullet marathons. They're about loyalty, loss, betrayal, duality. In Face/Off, the two antagonists aiming guns at each other (a classic Woo image) are aiming at their own faces. The premise, by scripters Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, is diabolical: What if you had to wear the face of the man who killed your son? And what if he, in turn, assumed your face and your life, while you were driven into isolation and squalor?

The hero, FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta), has lived for six years in obsessive grief. He can't rest until he catches the terrorist who killed his little boy -- a freaky nihilist named Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), who plans to wipe out L.A. with a bomb. After Troy has been rendered comatose, Archer has his own face removed and replaced by Troy's, so he can win the trust of Troy's cohorts and find out where the bomb is. Later, the faceless Troy awakens and plucks Archer's face out of cold storage so he can take over Archer's life.

Face/Off is a masterstroke of casting: we get to watch two great, physically inventive actors playing each other. When Travolta is Archer, he's clenched and burned out; the death of his son has drained all relaxation out of his body. As the happy psycho Troy, Travolta moves like a man who can be relaxed anywhere, in any man's body, and he does everything -- loading a gun, taking off his coat -- with a flourish, as if playing to an audience in his head. Here, as in Woo's Broken Arrow, Travolta makes casual brutality seem like a state of grace.

Cage's performance follows the exact opposite track. He starts off in full crowd-pleasing mode as Troy, dressed as a priest, squeezing a choir girl's butt as he sings "Hallelujah!" Yet when Cage becomes the virtuous Archer, he doesn't get duller -- he gets weirder and scarier. He pulls off a magnificent burst of rage when Archer first sees Troy's face in the mirror. Cage also comes up with a truly bizarre bug-eyed grimace that stylizes Archer's horror at wearing a face he despises.

The core of Face/Off is how each man adapts to his new family. Troy, in a perverse way, tries to be a good husband and dad to Archer's wife (Joan Allen) and daughter (Dominique Swain); Archer, who can't help being decent, baffles Troy's girlfriend (Gina Gershon) and confronts living proof of Troy's potential redemption. The dramatic scenes have emotional gravity, while the exhilarating action sequences defy gravity.

In 'Face/Off,' as in his other classics, John Woo fuses the masks of comedy and tragedy to give the action genre a new and beautiful face.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=353&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/21/07 11:45:18
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User Comments

10/08/13 Jeff Wilder One of the best recent Hollywood action films. Woo's direction is superb. 5 stars
4/08/10 PAUL SHORTT VIOLENT, SILLY, ENTERTAINING THRILL RIDE 4 stars
11/18/08 killer are you kidding best movie ever 5 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner This one was kinda boring. 2 stars
8/17/08 John Millheim Pretty good, I like when Travolta has to act bad,creepy 4 stars
3/30/08 Pamela White compelling drama 4 stars
10/09/07 dude I thought it was boring 1 stars
10/07/07 mark madsen I thought mowie was pretty good. 4 stars
10/06/07 Mars. . . dAmn Good movie! ! ! 4 stars
6/11/07 al smith it rocks.woo's best american film and one of the best action films ever 5 stars
5/25/07 Sugarfoot Entertaining but a tad too long, the closest America has come to realizing Woo's craft. 4 stars
3/09/07 johnnyfog Overrated! But servicable. Gina Gershon's there for no reason 4 stars
12/26/06 johnnyfog Look, guns that shoot sparks and nothing else! Hammy Travolta is cool for once 4 stars
12/06/06 David Pollastrini great fx 4 stars
10/31/06 ProSneakyD A few flaws but other than that, a bloody well directed action movie, need more like this. 5 stars
9/01/06 Michele love it 5 stars
7/24/06 JenDenmark pretty baaaaahhhd! 2 stars
6/27/06 leslie weekes good old shoot em up sneering action film 3 stars
6/03/06 tatum A great big entertaining loud sloppy mess; lots of fun 4 stars
11/25/05 CONSTANTINE AWESOME review 'cooler' & 'Frank Rountree' GOOD ON YA'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/21/05 Frank Rountree Good effects, and great story, good cast 4 stars
10/22/05 cooler one of the greatest action movies of all time 5 stars
10/11/05 CONSTANTINE BEST AMERICAN MADE John Woo FILM EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/04/05 Tom Burns An action-packed movie. Travolta and Cage are great in their roles they play. 5 stars
8/16/05 ES John Woo, john Travolta & Niccholas Cage!= no one saw this movie would suck before hand? 1 stars
7/23/05 ALDO John Travolta/Nicholas Cage are GREAT IN THIS 5 stars
6/30/05 Negative An classic action film. Well done. Great story, acting, music. 5 stars
6/06/05 Daveman More silly and excessive than Hard Boiled (which is quite an achievement) but the action... 4 stars
6/04/05 Hack-SAW AN ACTION CLASSIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/03/05 Indrid Cold Fantastic concept and execution. As good as action gets. 5 stars
4/19/05 The Sorrow Instant, instant... INSTANT Friggen' CLASSIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/11/05 The Sorrow Classic... 5 stars
1/10/05 bana puts the acting into action movie 5 stars
8/08/04 Alan The least they could do is get actors with similar bone structures. 2 stars
5/31/04 John Poo's "Arse/Off" "YOU ASSHOLE!" "I'm not an asshole, I AM A MAN!" Back of the Y: masterpiece televison. 5 stars
4/18/04 Boris Smith High Energy Action and fun save this movie's stupid plot 3 stars
3/28/04 john John Woo's least offensive American film 4 stars
1/20/04 nameless cool action 5 stars
12/06/03 Gustavo Alejandro Reinoso The best action film in history 5 stars
10/13/03 Stefan Halka While over-long, this film is fun to watch from the superbly directed actiion sequences. 4 stars
5/16/03 mr. Pink Woo's best American movie with travolta & Cage at the top of their game. This rocks!! 5 stars
3/04/03 Jack Sommersby Starts off well, and goes downhill from there. Barely recommendable. 3 stars
8/19/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) "Hard-Boiled" and "Face/Off" are John Woo's best movies. 5 stars
7/25/02 murat idea? great,film?AVERAGE. 3 stars
7/24/02 STEVE THIS MOVIE ROCKS!!! 5 stars
7/20/02 ! One of the best action movies of the last years 5 stars
6/17/02 R.W. Welch Preposterous but quite watchable pic, novel if nothing else. 4 stars
6/08/02 Phil M. Aficionado Implausibility on steroids, but it is a gas and very different. Plot is over the top. 4 stars
4/24/02 Monster W. Kung Not bad, but the action becomes overkill in the end. 3 stars
3/08/02 Mo Anand Awesome special effects...with two great actors 5 stars
1/17/02 David A. Has some exciting scenes, but the concept of transplating faces is too preposterous! 4 stars
1/03/02 Scream-Mania Cool actions, good plot, good acting, and a good movie 5 stars
11/30/01 Rutt13 Exciting, great action, great acting! 5 stars
10/15/01 Andrew Carden A Few Good Action Scenes, but Travolta Seems Uncomfortable. 3 stars
9/05/01 Butterbean Fast paced, non-stop action with a decent plot! 5 stars
7/28/01 Steve Ass-kicking action sequences, great acting, great story, but a bit long. 4 stars
7/25/01 TLsmooth This fucking movie would not end. Nick Cage is dog shit. 1 stars
7/08/01 Gracy Lionheart I really liked this movie. I like psychotic villians. :-) 4 stars
6/26/01 Lars Pettersson Woo's best american movie without any doubt. Great acting, superb actionsequences ! 4 stars
6/15/01 Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatam & Howe Sadistic garbage; not worth two dead flies 1 stars
5/31/01 Mason Billotte This movie is fucking awesome! 5 stars
5/11/01 Finity fantasmic 5 stars
4/23/01 Luke In response to Jake = ????? BTW i loved this movie 5 stars
4/12/01 dale hardiman I bought this film a week ago and have watched it 20 times since.It's awesome. 5 stars
3/19/01 Mart Dawg REally good movie, original story, nicholas cage is the shit 5 stars
2/15/01 lisa Awesome, but sorta confusing. 5 stars
2/14/01 Jake John Woo does it again! 1 stars
2/13/01 Richard Wright "Papa's got a brand new bag." Exhilarating action film by a master of the genre. 4 stars
1/30/01 rubber PLEASE GIVE THIS A MISS!!! Total CRAP & BOLLOCKS!!! 1 stars
1/13/01 Jake Awesome action movie 5 stars
1/01/01 Msitrab One of the 5 best action movies ever 5 stars
12/28/00 Turtle Another Nic Cage action blockbuster! 5 stars
12/04/00 Cristopher Revilla one of the best action films since the fugitive, Bill Head, you should stop giving head! 5 stars
11/22/00 The Bill Head What a brainless monstrosity!! Filling with Woo's moronic action scenes..It was hilarious!! 1 stars
11/14/00 The EVIL Penguin a great soryline; more like realistic 4 stars
10/26/00 JC23 Delivers action AND a Story 5 stars
6/22/00 Visc Don't miss this one 5 stars
6/01/00 arnold bad ass 5 stars
5/30/00 Bruce Joseph is right, this is one of the best american action films ever. 5 stars
5/21/00 Cinesuerte with Joan Allen & Margaret Cho 2 of the most unattractive women of cinema 4 stars
4/29/00 Joseph P. Ulibas one of the best american action films I have seen. 5 stars
2/06/00 Kyle Broflovski OUCH!!! Ouch in a good way! 5 stars
1/20/00 ripley WOW!!! 5 stars
1/17/00 Dirk Diggler top notch 5 stars
1/12/00 dr.d a blazing thriller 5 stars
1/09/00 John Markham A steaming turd, with nuts in it. 1 stars
11/09/99 Bozo sadistic garbage from hollywood morons; what is joan allen doing here? 1 stars
11/02/99 C.A.T.M. Best action movie ever, with plot, characters, direction, and acting!! 5 stars
7/30/99 Matthew Bartley Amazing action but too long 4 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Absolutely fantastic. Pure entertainment- the choreography is fucking ace. 5 stars
6/04/99 Meagan This is the best action movie I've seen in a long time, and the best I've seen since. 5 stars
5/24/99 Allie A must see! 5 stars
5/23/99 GothamDK Awsome everything! Don't know how John Woo is going to top this. Hope he tries, though. 5 stars
5/19/99 Robert Williams Piece of shit, Woo hong kong movies cane this hollywood tripe. Tries to hard and it shows. 1 stars
5/15/99 lucas jackson this is one fucking good movie,it kicks ass!! 5 stars
4/30/99 Rob Mckechnie They should off called this The Best Action Scenes Ever : Volume 1 5 stars
4/26/99 Michael Grimm if Woo made this in Hong Kong it would have been better than Hard Boiled or the Killer 4 stars
4/20/99 jimmy jam WOWIE! 5 stars
2/19/99 nun uf yur businness some really gross parts but other wise its really really awesome! 5 stars
2/18/99 Piz vintage Wu in pour it on style...entertaining, fast, and a little repetitive 4 stars
1/15/99 DRMJSP Totally awesome movie."I guess you better pull the trigger. CAUSE I DON'T GIVE A FUCK!" 5 stars
1/09/99 Jo Mama i love gina gershon. oh, and the filming was great too. 5 stars
1/03/99 Dasha Face/Off ROCKS! One of the best action movies ever. 5 stars
11/13/98 Jules Why do they have 10 year olds writing movies in Hollywood? 3 stars
10/26/98 Brian Easily Woo's best American effort, but doesn't compare to "classics."1st time I saw, I love 5 stars
10/14/98 Chi-Fan Hu All the action I can take 5 stars
9/27/98 katherine pretty dumb 2 stars
9/24/98 Milhouse Faqw After about 2 minutes, I forgot about the plot. The action is the best ever. 5 stars
9/20/98 Jon Amazing Action Flick. Nic Cage and John Travolta are the awesome! 5 stars
9/14/98 Chip Taylor GGGGGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/07/98 ARMA-FUCK'N-GEDDON Oh come on... FACE/OFF is the best action flic next to, well, you guessed it 5 stars
9/02/98 J-Guy I was thinking "wouldnt their voices stay the same even if they switched faces?" 2 stars
8/30/98 Matt so very Woo-ish.. and yet not 4 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball Hardboiled ruled - very realistic. Face/Off sucked - very contrived. 2 stars
8/20/98 The Man With The Helmet Hey Woo, slo-mo this. 3 stars
8/18/98 zubilicious john travolta's acting made me ill. nic cage was awesome in the first 30 mins of it. 4 stars
8/17/98 Johny Woo rocks a well acted action movie with an element of sci-fi to be accepted 5 stars
8/17/98 {{{OZ}}} Suspension of disbelief needed. Good moments, badly cast doubles & boom mics aplenty. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  27-Jun-1997 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Jul-1997




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