Director: John Woo
Cast: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, Alessandro Nivola
Released: June 27, 1997
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Titanic (of course it did))
I think if one was given the choice to watch a "face off" between John Travolta and Nicolas Cage or between Bryan Cranston and Giancarlo Esposito, the latter would be chosen every time. At least that's the one I would choose. That episode of Breaking Bad was amazing and this movie is just so awfully laughably bad. I probably saw it fifteen years ago and didn't much care for it then and had no intention of ever seeing it again, but when I saw that the comedy podcast How Did This Get Made?, which reviews ridiculous movies such as this one, had reviewed it (the episode came out in May of last year if you want to look for it), I knew I had to watch it again just to listen to the podcast. I sludged through the two and a half hours (TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF OVERACTING FROM TRAVOLTA AND CAGE!) of this craziness but it was totally worth it to listen to that episode of that podcast. I was laughing so hard; I'm glad I was alone when I listened to it! And of course how could I deny you a review of the movie?
I'm sure everyone has seen the movie, or at the very least know the basic premise: Travolta and Cage switch faces. Sean Archer (John Travolta) is the good guy. He's an FBI agent and a family man with a wife (Joan Allen) and a teen daughter. Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) is the bad guy. He's a terrorist, who, along with his brother (Alessandro Nivola) plants a bomb set to go off in a few weeks in L.A. There is history between these two. You see, six years ago, Troy was all set up to kill Archer who was on a carousel with his five year old son. When he takes his aim (and why is he aiming when his target is on a moving object?), he misses Archer (gee you think since he's on a MOVING object?) and only nicks him, but instead kills the kid. While Archer is mourning him (and this time he is off the carousel), you'd think Troy would take the chance to kill him but he doesn't. Because otherwise we wouldn't have a movie! So now we have our characters' backstories!
We fast forward six years later where Archer is distant from his wife and the daughter is pretty much like Eliza Dushku 2.0 from True Lies where she thinks her dad is really lame. The two sworn enemies are reunited and Archer and his FBI agents have a shoot out with Troy and his minions in an airport hanger with lots of explosions. I laughed so hard when one guy got shot and when he flew back into the wall, you could actually see the wire he was attached to that pulled him back. Troy tells Archer there's a bomb, but won't tell him where it is. This is the first of many face offs (face.....off!) they have.
Anyway, I'll skip all the boring stuff and get to the good part. Archer thinks Troy has died (he got hurt pretty badly during their, ahem, face off) but he's only in a coma being kept alive by ventilators. Two agents tell Archer they think there's a way that he can stop the bomb and ask him, "What if you could go up to Castor's brother AS Castor" and Archer is all like, "Huh, what are you talking about?" They introduce him to a doctor who says he can do a procedure where he will take Archer's face...wait for it....OFF and then have it replaced with Troy's face. They will also alter his body and give him a haircut so he will match Troy. They are also able to change his voice so he will sound like Troy. (And I'm sure if Travolta tried hard enough, he probably could have done a fine Nicholas Cage impersonation!) The only thing that won't be the same is their blood types....which will be a plot point later! Naturally Archer is hesitant at first, but then he agrees. If this were me, I would say, "Hell, no, you cannot take my face OFF!" (I wonder how many times I'm going to say "face off" in this review?)
I understand they want to find the bomb, but of all the people, why have Archer assume Troy's identify? The guy killed his kid for God's sake and now he's got to look like the man who murdered his son? That has got to have some damaging psychological effects that can never be undone. But I guess he's the best man for the job as he knows the most about Troy and plus the movie just wouldn't be as awesome!
We see the procedure where the doc effortlessly peels off Archer's face after using a scalpel to cut it and sticks it in a vat of saline or something and does the same with Troy's face and stitches it onto Archer's faceless face. Basically now Nicholas Cage is now playing the part of Sean Archer. He is taken to a very high-security prison that houses the worst of the worst criminals where the other Troy brother is to work on him to see if he can get any information on the bomb.
MEANWHILE.....apparently the FBI thought Troy was good to be in a coma for a couple more weeks because they just leave him in a room which isn't locked or contained and he isn't chained down or anything in the event he should wake up...which he does! Shocker! Bet you didn't see that one coming! He's not even being guarded! So he wakes up with a bandage on his head and we see a shot of the back of his head as he unwraps the bandage. He touches his face which has been replaced by tissue and blood and bone and whatever else is under your skin and we see blood smeared on his fingers. I'm surprised he didn't scream because I would imagine that would hurt touching your face without the skin. He see's Archer's face in the vat of saline because, you know, it's just sitting there out in the open! Not even under lock and key. Who the hell is running this place? He watches a video of the procedure they did on Archer. You think having his faceless face exposed to the elements would be damaging. He does say he took some pain killers so that explains why he's not screaming in agony. He has access to a phone so we hear him talking to one of his cronies in a muffled voice and they bring the doctor and make him do the procedure with Archer's face now to be put on Troy. The only time we see Troy's faceless face is in the reflection of the doctor's glasses and someone on How Did This Get Made? commented that they put ketchup on Cage's face which is so true because it does look like that. The doctor does the operation, so John Travolta is now playing the part of Castor Troy. He kills the doctor and the two FBI agents who told Archer about the operation, and get this...THOSE THREE WERE THE ONLY PEOPLE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD WHO KNEW THAT ARCHER WAS GOING UNDER THIS PROCUEDURE TO LOOK LIKE TROY AND NOW NOBODY KNOWS WHO HE REALLY IS!!! Hahahaha, I love it. I just love how stupid this movie is.
Between the two actors, I honestly don't know who is worse. They both overact, especially when they play the part of the bad guy. (I guess we should be thankful that they are never both the bad guy at the same time!) It's like Woo told them to give it their usual ten on the scale of overacting, but then drive it up to twenty....which they do. I should mention that Cage was ridiculous and over the top when he was playing Troy and it it HILARIOUS when he is playing Archer pretending to be Troy. But even more hilarious is Travolta. He turns into a total "Whoo!" girl because he is "whoo"-ing all over the place. When he confronts Cage-as-Archer, he says to him, "Whoo-wee, you good-looking!" That line delivery was so hilarious.
Travolta-as-Troy becomes a hero when he "finds" the planted bomb and defuses it. Margaret Cho is in this movie as an FBI agent and when they're all celebrating she says to Travolta-as-Troy (because Archer is usually a buzzkill), "Sir, did you have surgery?" and he looks worried like she might know something, and then she says, "Did you finally get that stick removed from your ass?" C'mon, would you really say that to your superior who just defused a bomb? It wasn't really Archer and the bomb was never found, but still. Cage-as-Archer sees this on TV and knows he has to escape from prison...which he does with some help and a lot of fighting. He finds out the prison is actually a large barge far from land but he jumps off of it and manages to swim to shore. It cuts from him jumping into the water to dry land where he gets in a car so we never actually see how he got there, but the movie is already two and a half hours long, so I don't care if they didn't show that.
Margaret Cho tells TravoltaTroy that Castor Troy has died and he is happy by this news but when he asks to see the body she tells him it hasn't been recovered and he totally spazzes out and shouts, "It hasn't been RECOVERED yet?" It was so hilarious, but I doubt the movie was going for that.
TravoltaTroy is enjoying the perks of being Archer and starts to romance his "wife" who is surprised by all the attention he's giving to her because the real Archer was always so distant after their son died and was only focused on work. He is not subtle at all at trying to fit into his new identity. (But then again, he was never a subtle terrorist either!) He gets his "daughter's" name wrong (and lusts after her...eww!) and acts all weird and too cool around her. After he beats up a guy who was trying to advance on his "daughter", he gives her a knife as "protection" in case a guy ever tries to rape her. This will also come in handy later in the movie.
The most hilarious scene in the movie is when CageArcher goes to Troy's hideaway where he lives with his girlfriend (Gina Gershon) and other cronies and he explains to them that he wants to find "Archer" and take his face....off! And there's repeated lines of "face off?" "Face....off!" So bad, but so hilarious. We find that Troy has a son who is five. He pretty much looks exactly like Archer's son who died (and was also five!) They even pretty much have the same hair cut and color. They are so alike that CageArcher calls him Michael (which was Archer's son's name), but this kid's name is Adam.
CageArcher calls his wife and tells her what is going on but she doesn't believe him, so he goes to his house and she is naturally scared because it looks like the man who murdered her son and is a known terrorist is at her house, but he tells her about the first date they had and tells her to take his blood and get a blood sample from TravoltaTroy and she does and finds out the truth. But by this time, even without the blood sample, you think she would know because TravotlaTroy is now walking around with two goons and you can tell they're bad guys. That Troy guy really does not know how to be subtle whatsoever.
The two men reunite at the funeral of Archers' boss who TravoltaTroy killed after revealing the truth to him and blaming his death as a heart attack. There's a stand off between the two of them, plus Archer's wife and Troy's girlfriend. Everyone dies except Travolta, Cage, and Allen. There are doves which I guess is a John Woo trademark. The daughter randomly shows up and thinks that TravoltaTroy is her father when she holds a gun at the two fighting men. They each plead at her to shoot the other man. Somehow TravoltaTroy grabs her and has a gun to her head so she knows that's NOT her dad (especially after he licks her face....eww!) and stabs him in the leg with the knife he gave her. He lets go of her and she runs to her mother. The two men continue fighting and somehow end up on speed boats and there's a big boat chase and lots of explosions. Actually, this scene was pretty cool and my favorite action scene of the movie. Another one of my favorite scenes was a few scenes earlier where they are facing off against each other (once again!) and they are back to back with a wall separating them. (It's the one in the above photo). They say the only way to end this is to kill each other, so they get up and face the wall where there is a mirror on each side of the wall so they are looking at a reflection of themselves....as the OTHER person and each aim a gun at the mirror. Oh, the symbolism, I love it!
So after the boat scene where the boat and two stunt actors go flying fifty feet into the air, CageArcher finally kills TravoltaTroy and gets his face back! He comes home with Adam without discussing this with his wife in advance if she would be okay with adopting the son of the guy who killed HER son and this kid looks EXACTLY like her dead son...so I don't know is she would be down with that, but how can she say no when the kid is standing right there?
I explain an annoying thing one of the characters does in the movie: