Summer of Nicolas Cage Movie #15: Face/Off

1997 action movie

Rating: 15/20 (Jen: 10/20)

Plot: Carousel, Nic Cage with a mustache, blood on the horse, Oh snap!, loose balloons, flash forward, bomb placement, priest-dance-f-bomb-butt-grab-ecstasy-groan, unapologetic coattail flapping, airplane tongue suck, peach bragging, chicken with a damn jet, bad guy gets it, face lifts required, boom--face lifts, vegetable resurrects, Oh double snap!, second face lift, face/off!

You just have to read that tag line to figure out how good this movie is. Go ahead; read it.

"In order to trap him, he must become him."

Let that sink in for a moment. Now, read it again, more slowly this time. What's your hurry anyway? Take it nice and slow.

"In order to trap him, he must become him."

Face/Off has two actors with hammy tendencies who get a chance to act as each other's characters. At some point in the movie, you've got Nicolas Cage acting like John Travolta acting like Nicolas Cage with John Travolta acting like Nicolas Cage acting like John Travolta. Those are the kinds of layers that can melt your freakin' mind! The performances start goofy, turn into something ridiculous, manage to top themselves somehow, and then turn into works of genius. Ridiculous genius. Nic gets some great lines, most of them referencing peaches. "You know, I can eat a peach for hours." That's the type of pick-up line that could destroy a woman, right? I'm also fond of this gem and its delivery: "Someone took my face. . .but it's cool. We're going to deal with it." I don't remember if Cage said that as Travolta's character or if Travolta said that as Cage acting like Travolta who thought he was Cage. The dialogue in this movie took my face, I think. But it's cool. I'm going to deal with it. Other brilliant pieces: "Bra-fucking-O," a line that only Cage can really nail; prolonged laughter (at least five minutes) preceding the words "I've got to go to the little boy's wee-wee room"; and a scene with a mirror that reminded me of Vampire's Kiss (What is it with Cage and mirrors?) where the title of the movie is clumsily uttered about forty-seven times. As the characters engage in what must have been the fifth or six climactic fight scene, they keep saying "Die!" to each other.

The old face-switcheroo plot is silly, but it's submerged beneath so many improbable shoot-'em-ups and 'splosions that you might not even notice if you're a real dumb guy like me. Jen had problems with the science, asking questions like "If their blood types are different, wouldn't their bodies reject the new faces?" What the hell, Jen? You can't ask questions like that during Face/Off! Flow with the beaucoup pseudo-science or cuckoo-science and the assaults on common sense and appreciate John Woo's use of slow-mo, operatic violence, and that unapologetic coattail flapping and slow-motion bird flapping and hope your spine doesn't fall out. John Woo's the only director I can think of who can nearly eviscerate you with his action sequences. After the scene at the beginning where Travolta's character (while he still has his own face with that stupid chin of his) captures Cage's character, I wondered if I had somehow fallen asleep and missed the entire movie until the end. But nope, there were logic-defying action scenes aplenty right around the corner. It's beyond stupid, but it's so much fun.

One question. There's this very strange sentiment that Travolta does with the faces of his loved ones where he places his hand near the top of their foreheads and runs it all the way down to the bottom of their faces. I noticed it the first time and thought it was just a Scientology thing. But then it happened two more times and I realized it must have been in the script. So I started counting them. Do you know how many Travolta face-gropes there are in this movie? Eleven! Eleven, counting one flashback face-grope and one attempted face-grope that fell a little short.
I tried to touch my son's face like that, by the way, and he recoiled in fear and asked me what I was doing. Maybe if I had John Travolta's chin then it would have gone better?


cory said...

I saw this overdone nonsense when it came out. Travolta was still getting a "Pulp Fiction" benefit of the doubt from me (this ended that), and I remember Woo being all the new rage, but there has to be a limit to how much scene-chewing and intelligence-insulting action one film should expect you to swallow. I didn't have much fun at "Face/ Off", but the leads sure seemed to relish their roles. A 12.

Shane said...

Cory, are you dead inside?

cory said...