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FACE/OFF

1997, dir. John Woo
138 min. Rated R.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon.

Review by Bobby Jones
John Woo Kicks Ass.

I've seen FACE/OFF several times now and it just keeps on kicking ass. After coming to america and putting out two pretty lame movies, John Woo has finally learned how to combine Hollywood's fucked-up sensibility with his own passion. The result is FACE/OFF, a high-energy action film with a heart and a story. This could be the future of the date movie. Guys want to go see stuff blow up but the film also carries an underlying story full of tender, touching moments that make this film such an emotional powerhouse.

    

The one thing that does bother me is the critics' response. Overall, FACE/OFF got pretty good reviews but one big complaint was that the premise was absolutely impossible. This new trend in movie realism really bugs me. Who gives a shit if it could happen or not? It's a movie, that's the point. Look at Hitchcock's films. The majority of his stories were pretty far-fetched but I don't hear anyone bitching about that. He has been quoted as saying hewas not really concerned with the plausibility of the events in his films. I mean what the fuck? When do birds just randomly attack people?

Anyway, to get back on track, one of the things I find most interesting in FACE/OFF is the character dichotomy of the two main characters, Sean Archer (John Travolta) and Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). How they seem to change in to one another and that they're really seperate parts of the same person (Kinda like the Joker and Batman. Kinda.) And if you think about it, it's really cool how you're always rooting for cage. Think about it. The opening shot where Cage shoots Travolta is pretty intense although it plays a lot during the film it is quickly forgotten because of the way we are introduced to the characters today. We see Sean Archer, a cop who's obsessed with the killer of his son. A cop so obsessed that he neglects his family and is generally a real asshole. He doesn't seem concerned about anything more than catching Castor Troy. Then wee meet Troy. Sure, he's planting a bomb that's going to kill a whole lot of people but he's so damn cool. Then he gets to the airport and his coat is blowing in the wind and shit and the audience is thinking, "Man, this guy is cool as fuck." And he picks up his Chiclets and talks to his brother Pollux. This is important because we see Castor tie Pollux's shoe. We see that Castor really has feelings, that he really cares about his own family. Then we think, "Well, he's really not that bad a guy..." and we wind up rooting for him.

    

So anyway, we have the asshole cop and and the really cool caring bad guy who can eat a peach for an hour. Then the fun starts when Troy goes in to a coma and Archer volunteers to siwtch faces with him in order to get information out of his brother Pollux, who is now in jail. And we're going, "dude, you're going to push away your wife and kid because you have this obsession/pride thing going on and you could really screw up your family by doing this." Yea like I learned all about this in English class. Hubrus. Oh yeah, Oedipus did the same. Right now the only people who really get any sympathy are archer's family and poor old Castor Troy who is not only in a coma but is also missing his face.

But then the really weird stuff starts to happen and Troy wakes up and gets Archer's face. So now Archer is Troy and Troy is Archer. Whatever. The point is that this is when we really start to see Castor Troy's true colors. He really starts fucking shit up, killing people, having sex with Archer's wife, yadda yadda yadda. And we start to think, "Wow, This guy was kinda cool but now he's a fucking psycho." At the same time we see Archer (as Troy) in jail and we really start to realize how much he cares about his life and his family and how he was just confused and now our sympathy shifts but we don't notice it because now he's Nic Cage. So we're STILL rooting for Cage. How fucking weird is that? It isn't until the last scene of the film that we see Archer AS Archer and that, my friend, is the bookend to the assassination at the beginning.


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