There's a fine line between over-the-top and just plain preposterous.
Back in the late 90's, a bunch of people actually thought that having Nicolas Cage and John Travolta literally switch faces in a big-budget action thriller was a good idea and thus, Face/Off was made.
To be fair, that does sound like the best thing ever.
And, in a way, it kind of is.
I mean, don't get me wrong, this is one really dumb flick but in terms of sheer ridiculous fun, it works brilliantly. Not only do you have John Travolta overacting his face off but you've got The Cage himself overacting his face off, both actors somehow trying to outdo themselves throughout in the let's-be-cartoon-characters department. It certainly helps that directing the film is the king of clichéd OTT cop thrillers, John "Mission: Impossible 2" Woo, a man for whom doves and Mexican stand-offs are not only worth having in every movie but are a must. The plot is utter goofball nonsense from the get-go with Cage's super-villain Castor Troy (yup, that is the character's actual name) planting a bomb in the middle of the city dressed like a priest before grabbing some young girl's butt and making a sound you've only heard at the zoo. Travolta's cop Sean Archer, who is really big on wiping his hands all over his wife and daughter's faces, for some reason, tries to apprehend Troy and, although that kinda works, he is still unable to get the location of the bomb out of him or his brother. Then, some numb-nuts shows up and suggests that "there is another way". Turns out that this other way doesn't involve torturing Troy's brother, pumping him with drugs then interrogating him 24-style or making a deal with Troy, no, that would make too much sense. Instead, Sean is offered a plan involving him LITERALLY becoming Castor Troy by going through some procedure which would change his face, his body, his hair and even his voice. Of course, it's totally reversible, and it's only for like a week so what could possibly go wrong? By the way, wounds can be opened and closed by laser beams and all you really need to wear someone's face is a big plunger and a jar. This all works for about a minute as Sean "Castor Troy" Archer is sent to a nutty maximum security prison complete with magnetic boots and Frankenstein-style electric chairs in order to make Troy's brother believe that he is really who he claims to be and find out where the bomb is.
Of course, when the real Castor Troy wakes up, everything goes to hell.
After making squeaky, balloon-like sounds, Cage forces these scientists to give him Travolta's face before killing them all, making it impossible for anyone to reverse the procedure. Until the end of the movie, of course, where this all becomes irrelevant. I guess these guys weren't that useful after all. Somehow Cageolta manages to escape this supposedly unescapable prison and the plot gives up on that whole bomb scenario instead focusing on giving our two hammy leads enough scenery to chew on and enough face-offs to make the title truly worthwhile. Highlights include... pretty much everything Nicolas Cage does, Travolta calling his own chin "ridiculous", crazy shootouts agogo, doves, talks of peaches and a boat crashing through a boat in a never-ending chase sequence. It's a high-octane roller-coaster ride of nonsense which makes the likes of Speed or Die Hard look like documentaries. The sci-fi plot device which makes Face/Off pretty unique as an action film would probably have worked in a Philip K. Dick adaptation (see John Woo's Paycheck), in a sci-fi flick, but here it comes right out of nowhere and stands out like a sore thumb. The plot has so many obvious holes that you'll find yourself giving up on its validity about 5 minutes in and, of course, the acting is infamously unforgettable. All that said, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy Face/Off for what it was: a dumb, hugely entertaining piece of ludicrous. The action never stops from the offset and the film is so out there that you can't help but want to know how it all comes together and gets resolved. Unfortunately, the ending ties everything up in an incredibly unconvincing bow which fits the movie, I guess, but which ends things on a corny, anti-climactic note.
Do I recommend Face/Off?
This is one that Cage fans should not only see but cherish as it boasts some of the actor's most over-the-top moments and, as a whole, it's the giant jelly donut of movies: so wrong, so rich, so bad for you yet so enjoyable. If you thought Broken Arrow was silly, wait till you see this little number...
A beautifully far-fetched guilty pleasure.