Best Bad Action Movies #6.5: Face/Off

Note: Waiting on the #6 movie on the list to arrive in the mail and initially totally brain-farting on the work of John Woo when making said list, led to this late addition. Hence the .5 in the list.

Year 1997
Stars Nicolas Cage, John Travolta

Plot FBI agent, Sean Archer puts his rival/criminal mastermind (Castor Troy – great villain name) in a coma. Castor’s brother is now the only person who knows the details on a ticking time bomb in LA, but will not talk. What is an FBI agent to do? Logically, you surgically exchange faces with the villain in a super secret operation (in which the others who know, die). Aw snap, Castor wakes up and takes Archer’s face. Highjinks ensue. 

One of Nicolas Cage’s more subtle takes.

Highlights John motherfuckering Woo. (more on that later) … Travolta and Cage are about the best over-actors in the biz. When pretending to be the other character (i.e. most of the movie) the over-acting is particularly enjoyable. Since Archer has to pass as Castor, both get to act like crazy, bigger-than-life villains for most of the flick. This is a BAM (bad action movie) plus, plus (say it like the French). … When first approached about the face-exchanging process, Sean Archer uniformly rejects the idea and tries to solve the puzzle with his normal methods. Was this delay in the movie necessary? The f’n movie is called Face/Off fer chrissake! He should of been all, “This is you plan?! …Yeah, fuck it. What else am I going to do?” … The variation in the action and sets are creative and abundant. … When escaping the converted oil rig-prison, Castor runs from a helicopter, jumps into the ocean, and is presumed dead. Even for a BAM, that is some shotty detective work. … Castor’s friend, Dietrich, has many choice lines, chief of which is, “What’s the matter? You look like you just fucked your mother.” Huh? … The movie climaxes with a boat chase. Boat chases are woeful. Yet, this one proves to be entertaining – possibly the first and only such case.

John mf’n Woo Director John Woo made his name making BAMs in the Orient. He came over to the States and had a short, but glorious career with BAMs, Face/Off being his Mona Lisa. The man knew how to put together a BAM. Anything but subtle, Woo loved some over-acting, but not more than over-directing. Everything shot is done in a completely dramatic fashion – from the slow mo’s, to the moving camera, to the heavy-handed music, to the crazy close-ups/camera angles, all rounding it out with demanding the aforementioned mugging from his actors. At times it is almost an artsy BAM with all this shit going on. If it seems like I am ripping on him, it is quite the opposite. For a lover of BAMs, Woo is an expert. One of his best traits is building up to the final showdown. There is so much over production leading up to it, that you know it is going to be comically epic. It is unfortunate that his BAM-light in America burned so briefly.

Drawbacks The flick checks in as the 138-minute mark, making it the longest BAM on the list. The editing room floor would have benefited from having some of the emotional scenes trimmed or axed all together. … No boobies. I guess Woo is too classy for random nudity.

Marksmen for much of the movie, they somehow miss each other several times in this scene.

Best Take When Archer-as-Castor (Archer/Castor) goes to Castor’s friend, Dietrich’s place, hilarity-turned-to-action-and-more-hilarity ensues. It starts with one of the unintentionally funnier parts in the movie, when Archer/Castor does drugs and tells Dietrich he wants to take Archer’s face off* – and repeats the term “face off” a few times. Then comes Castor/Archer crashing the party with agents and shooting, BOOM!, BANG!, take over, with Somewhere Over the Rainbow playing over the soundtrack for much of it. This leads up to a showdown between Castor and Archer where it seems impossible that they could possibly miss each other in such close proximity and with so many bullets, but this movie was made for the impossible. It is an action sequence that only They Live could trump.

Same scene, about to miss each other more.

Justification This is easily a contender for the top three. It has everything that defines a BAM (minus boobies) and its only real drawback is that is a bit too long in the tooth. It is a sin that I did not initially include this in my list, but that is what happens when you drunkenly put a list together. The only reason it is listed at 6.5 is that it was convenient to review it when I remembered about my gross error.

*Ever since seeing Top Gun at an early age, I always hate it when the characters say the title of the movie. Yet, here it was hilarious.

About Judas Pato

Just another hard working member of the press, covering the Chicago Bulls and nonsense - often both, simultaneously.
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3 Responses to Best Bad Action Movies #6.5: Face/Off

  1. snley says:

    That boat chase scene was so exciting it caused the film reel to snap when I saw it in the theater. True story. I never have seen the ending of the movie. Did they get their faces back?

  2. Judas Pato says:

    The boat chase is too much for most TVs as well. I have gone through more TVs during that scene than I can count. In the end, the faces are unrepairable, so they glue clown faces on them. It really comes out of left field – that sneaky John Woo.

  3. This needed to be on the list. Glad you added it.

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