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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Face/Off

Starring: Nicolas Cage, John Travolta
Director: John Woo
Rated: R
RunTime: 138 Minutes
Release Date: June 1997
Genres: Action, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Gina Gershon, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Nick Cassavetes, Harve Presnell, Colm Feore, John Carroll Lynch, Robert Wisdom, Margaret Cho

Review by Walter Frith
3 stars out of 4

Face off. It refers in many ways to two rival parties squaring off in competition. In this latest film from internationally acclaimed action director John Woo, the title is literate. John Travolta plays an FBI man who assumes the identity of a terrorist he's captured (Nicolas Cage) in order to get inside Cage's band of criminals by going undercover to prison to find the location of a biological explosive set to go off somewhere in the Los Angeles area.

The procedure in which Travolta assumes Cage's identity is quite unusual. Cage is in a coma after being captured and his face is cut off with lasers and is placed over Travolta's face and the only problem is that Travolta's face has to come off as well and Cage awakes from his coma in the hospital and calls upon his goons to force the doctor who performed the surgery on Travolta to do the same on him using Travolta's face. Travolta is caught in a nightmare to say the least as he's now locked in to Cage's identity and must remain in prison with no chance of reversal since the team who performed the surgery is murdered by Cage. Cage assumes the life Travolta had which includes a promotion within the FBI and the pleasures of Travolta's home life including a relationship with his wife (Joan Allen).

This is a high-tech, original and slick minded action picture that has both leading men in fine form and Cage is a treat to watch as the bad guy and Travolta has Cage's mannerisms and style of presence down to a tee once he assumes his identity. It's a confusing parody to discuss and it's a little bit like that old Abbott and Costello joke about who's on first. When you talk about the movie it's hard to distinguish between the two actors in the reversal of roles and director John Woo has a knack for making action films much more meaningful by utilizing the academics of craftsmanship from his actors. Even a terrible actor like Jean-Claude Van Damme came across well in Woo's 'Hard Target' from 1993. 'Face-Off' suffers only from over length and a screenplay that could have resolved things better in the end but with so much to please the senses on the screen, these things seem innocuous.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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