Face/Off (1997) – 2/5

A stupid, stupid movie. Entertaining, sure, mostly, but absurd and idiotic to an extreme rarely seen in films featuring a “name” cast and director. Granted, securing a strong, intelligent script hasn’t exactly ever been one of John Woo’s priorities before starting development on a film, at least not from what I’ve seen of his work, but this thing took the notion of lazy writing/filmmaking to a whole new level. Was Woo even trying to make a cohesive film here? And some of Nicolas Cage’s scenes, especially at the beginning, are beyond ridiculous; I imagine this was the beginning of the downward spiral of obnoxious shouting and exaggerated facial expressions he passes off for quality acting in films today. This is where it all began, folks. And we have John Woo to thank for it.

The plot of the film just doesn’t make sense. It’s a good concept, but the execution is brainless. Who in their right mind would ever agree to go along with such a hair-brained scheme? Were there really no other alternatives beyond taking the face of your worst enemy and pretending to be him in hopes that the person whose known him for his entire life wouldn’t notice and divulge secrets? Really? Come on. What about torture? That usually works well in films and television whenever a terrorist plot is brewing and the main character needs immediate information lest things blow up, so why wouldn’t it here? No, let’s resort to the extreme right away! To hell with logic!

And yeah, sure, they do interrogate a few people  beforehand, but why wasn’t Cage’s weak, pathetic brother, the one who designed the  bomb and would undoubtedly know everything they’d need to know to find and disarm the thing, questioned the same way? All John Travolta would have to do is give him an angry look and he would have cracked like an egg, especially given how the film goes out of its way to establish him as this totally bad ass interrogator. I mean, come on. No logic at all.

And then **SPOILERS** Cage’s emerging from his coma and taking Travolta’s identity: what the hell? There’s no security in the top-secret government science research whatever the hell building? Thugs brandishing weapons and hostages can just come and go as they please without attracting any kind of attention? Security cameras? What security cameras? And a delicate, complex procedure can all be done in a few hours, under pressure by armed thugs, and still manage to come out completely flawless? **END SPOILERS** Why, yes, all this and more in the wacky fantasy world of Face/Off, a land where neither logic, science, medicine, nor time stand in the way of telling a terrible story in the most absurd way possible. Ugh.

And this is all just stuff from the first act. The movie actually gets dumber as it goes along, a tremendous feat, until the last third which is not only insanely idiotic, but actually somewhat tiring mentally. The human brain can only take so much stupidity, I guess. A truly terrible, borderline boring last third. And the fight scene at the end with the **SPOILERS** patented John Woo doves and Christ sacrifice imagery, **END SPOILERS** what the hell was going on with that? What was the movie trying to say exactly, that Travolta was Jesus? Why? How? What?!? Argh, so stupid. It hurts to think about.

Overall, god. A very, very stupid film. It’s not even well-directed, not even the action scenes really. I thought John Woo was supposed to be this brilliant action guy; what happened? Terrible editing and choreography. The acting was decent at least, especially from Travolta who is extremely entertaining, and Cage at times too when he’s not hamming it up for the camera. And the film does have a few moments of clever imagery here and there with the mirror stuff and the doubles. The concept is interesting, like I said, but the execution, god, the execution. Terrible. Avoid, unless you’re in the mood to be tortured mentally for 2 plus hours. That’s another thing: the movie is more than two hours long!  Why god, why? Stay away.


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