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FACE/OFF
Review by Andrew Manning (11/98)

Release: 1997, Paramount/Touchstone
Starring: Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Gina Gershon, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Dominique Swain
Director: John Woo
MPAA Rating: [R] violence, language
Genre: Action

SUMMARY

To stop the terrorist actions of the psychotic Castor Troy (Cage/Travolta), special agent Sean Archer (Travolta/Cage) literally swaps faces with the archvillian. When Troy discovers what has been done, he destroys the records of the surgical operation, leaving Archer stuck with the identity of a wanted criminal.

WHAT'S GOOD

An original plot twist and a special opportunity for two great actors to play two distinct personas each. Cage especially shines, coming across as unredeemably evil and threatening as Castor Troy, and sympathetic and caring as Sean Archer. The movie takes care to develop the characters by devoting time to examine their personal relationships. Troy is made more real by his protective streak for his younger brother-in-crime Pollux (Nivola). Archer's ideal family life with wife (Allen) and daughter (Swain) is contrasted with Troy's estranged lover (Gershon) and their illegitimate son. Backfill is offered early in the story, as the film opens with a flashback of Troy killing Archer's son. John Woo's direction truly stands out amongst its peers. The violence is so choreographed and balanced that it feels like you're watching martial arts with firearms rather than two guys blowing each other up.

WHAT'S BAD

The final confrontation between Troy and Archer is a mediocre high speed chase scene with boats. The resolution is a little too "happily ever after." Travolta's take on the two characters surprisingly takes a backseat to Cage's--his Troy is less menacing, and his Archer is less sympathetic. To Travolta's credit, though, the imbalance has more to do with the writing than the acting.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)






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