Friday, July 15, 2011

Face/Off (1997)

Not Bad/Not Great

- FBI Agent Sean Archer is hell-bent on bringing Castor Troy to justice. When a shootout with the FBI leaves Troy in a coma, Archer assumes his identity to get close to Troy's brother and find out where a bomb has been planted. Archer does this via a scientific breakthrough that allows for a complete face transplant, voice alteration, the whole works – you can become a whole different person on the outside. But when Troy comes out of the coma, he assumes Archer's identity and begins to run the FBI and act as head of the Archer household. Archer now has to stop Troy, who is living in Archer's face, while living in Troy's face – a lot of flying bullets, dead bodies, and explosions follow.

John Travolta and Nicolas Cage both star as resolute FBI agent Sean Archer and criminal extraordinaire Castor Troy in director John Woo's sci-fi action flick Face/Off. This film is, overall, an entertaining action flick - but there are two crucial elements that are poorly-handled and let the film down.

One poorly handled element is the acting. Both Travolta and Cage get a chance to play both characters but neither one of them is particularly great as either character. Travolta fairs the best, being disastrously bad as Sean Archer but actually pretty good as an over-the-top Castor Troy villain. He is very quirky and humorous and makes the villainous Troy-in-Archer's-clothing role work overall - but he still has many weak moments. Cage, while fairing pretty well in the Castor Troy role early on in the film (also delightfully over-the-top), he is pretty bad in the honest-to-goodness Archer character - overacting to horrendous levels. Supporting actors Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, and Alessandro Nivola do well in their small roles but cannot do much help to fix the bad acting situation that the film finds itself in.

The other poorly handled element is the dialogue part of the script. Now I realize that this is an action film first and foremost - but if you do not want your film to rely on dialogue, you should try to put the least amount of dialogue in the film as you can and then try to make what little you have great. A lot of the dialogue is actually pretty funny and intentionally over-the-top throughout much of the film; but rather than being agreeably hammy, much of the dialogue is pretty weak.

However, I do not want this to sound like Face/Off is a completely bad film - while much of the acting is poor and a lot of dialogue weak, the action is pretty cool. Guns blaze, bodies clash, and everything and anything could explode at any time throughout the film (the film also includes what could be the very best boat chase ever put on film). Woo tackles each action scene in a non-traditional way and that is refreshing and enjoyable. So if you are in for a all-out-fun guntastic shoot'em'up action film show-down, go ahead and pop Face/Off into the DVD or Blu-ray player - you won't be disappointed.

CBC Rating: 6/10


Juanita's Journal said...

I disagree with you completely. Especially about Travolta and Cage's performances.

Stafford Christensen said...

Thanks for commenting - and for reading!

Differing opinions are what makes the cinematic world go 'round.... and I am aware that I hold the minority opinion on "Face/Off" - you should have heard my wife's tirade against me when she heard my reaction to the film (she loves it)!

While I think Travolta and Cage ate up the colorful "Castor Troy" role with an over-the-top delight, they both looked like Harry and Lloyd when it came to portraying the more dimensional good guy role of Sean Archer. Of course, that's just my take.