Runtime: 139 minutes
BBFC: 18 (cut)
Original Release: 27th June 1997
UK Release: 7th November 1997
First Seen: TV, 22nd September 2002 (probably)
John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever, Hairspray)
Nicolas Cage (The Rock, Ghost Rider)
Joan Allen (Nixon, The Bourne Supremacy)
Alessandro Nivola (Mansfield Park, Jurassic Park III)
Gina Gershon (Bound, P.S. I Love You)
FBI agent Sean Archer finally corners his nemesis, Castor Troy, knocking him into a coma in the process. Unfortunately, Troy has planted a bomb that will destroy Los Angeles, and the only other person who knows its location is his brother — and he ain’t talking. So Archer comes up with the perfectly sane and utterly foolproof plan to secretly have a face transplant and assume Troy’s identity. Unfortunately, the real Troy wakes up, takes Archer’s face, and kills everyone who knows the truth. Hilarity ensues! No, wait, it’s not that kind of movie — violent bloody action ensues.
Sean Archer, super cop. Looks like John Travolta, until he looks like Nicolas Cage. Don’t overthink it, it works just fine when you’re watching the film.
Castor Troy, super villain. Looks like Nicolas Cage, until he looks like John Travolta. Don’t overthink it, it works just fine when— wait, I did that bit.
Best Supporting Character
Castor’s brother, Pollux. Yes, that’s his name. Looks like Alessandro Nivola throughout.
Castor Troy: “Sean Archer here, who’s calling?”
Sean Archer: “Well if you’re Sean Archer, I guess I’m Castor Troy.”
The good guy’s teenage daughter — played by Dominique “Lolita” Swain, as if to ram the point home — is hanging out in her bedroom wearing next to nothing, when in walks the villain, who starts perving over her… oh, and he’s got her dad’s face at the time. This is the kind of scene you can have when your body-swap movie is rated 18, I guess.
According to IMDb, the studio wanted John Woo to take the slash out of the title, but he kept it so people wouldn’t think it was a hockey movie. I don’t know why you’d think it was a hockey movie without the slash, or why adding a slash magically stops it being a hockey movie, but that’s what it says.
1 Oscar nomination (Sound Effects Editing)
2 Saturn Awards (Director, Writer)
7 Saturn nominations (Action/Adventure/Thriller Film, Actor (both Nicolas Cage and John Travolta), Supporting Actress (Joan Allen), Younger Actor/Actress (Dominique Swain), Music, Make-Up)
2 MTV Movie Awards (including Action Sequence for the speedboat chase)
4 MTV Movie Award nominations (including Best Villain, shared between Nicolas Cage and John Travolta)
1 Golden Trailer Awards nomination (Best of the Decade)
What the Critics Said
“Travolta and Cage make superb adversaries, flip-flopping roles, first as hero, then as villain. What titilating fun to observe Cage seethe with venom and Travolta meet danger head-on, then see Cage become Travolta, as the latter adopts the unmistakable characteristics of the fiend. […] Face/Off is a masterpiece equal to the action classics Seven Samurai, The Wild Bunch and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” — Roger Hurlburt, Sun Sentinel
What the Public Say
“Gorgeously shot with lots of Ol’ West style close up on the eyes while silence is only interrupted by the sounds of gun magazines falling to the ground. Woo’s directorial vision and the clever exchange of snark and built up bitterness displayed in the dialogue are just two of the beautiful components displayed in the first 30 minutes of this film that set the tone of the fucking masterpiece that it is.” — Amy Seidman, This Film Is Better Than You, Deal With It
After making his name as an “heroic bloodshed” director par excellence with films like A Better Tomorrow, The Killer and Hard Boiled, John Woo headed for Hollywood… and made Van Damme vehicle Hard Target and nuclear-warhead-theft thriller Broken Arrow. But after those he made this, surely one of the best action movies of the ’90s. Its sci-fi high-concept allows Travolta and Cage to have a whale of a time in each other’s bodies, and Woo’s trademark OTT action is as exciting as ever.
Next: #30, ah-ah! Saviour of the universe!