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Movie Review

Face/Off

Reviewed by: Cheryl Sneeringer
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
17 to Adult
Genre:
Action/Adventure
Length:
140 min.
R

Starring: John Travolta, Nicholas Cage, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, Allessandro Nivola / Director: John Woo / Released by: Paramount Pictures

Here’s the set up: FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) is obsessed with apprehending Castor Troy (Nicholas Cage), the terrorist who killed his young son six years before. Archer’s anti-terrorist team receives information that Troy and his brother Pollux are at the Los Angeles airport, so Archer and dozens of men and vehicles converge on Troy’s departing chartered jet. Thus begins a spectacular chase sequence that includes collisions, explosions, a game of chicken with a jetliner, and heartless killings. And this is just the beginning of this movie!

This initial face-off between Troy and Archer ends with the criminal (Troy) in a coma and his brother in prison. But Archer’s victory is short-lived. He learns that Troy and his brother have planted a nerve gas bomb somewhere in L.A.—a bomb that will detonate in a matter of days. The only way Archer can get the bomb’s location is to assume Troy’s identity and get the information from Troy’s brother, who is incarcerated in a maximum security prison. At a secret government surgical facility, a surgeon has advanced laser surgery to the point that Archer can literally and seamlessly receive a face transplant from the comatose Troy. In a covert operation known only to a handful of his colleagues, Archer enters the prison as Castor Troy.

Unfortunately, while Archer is taking his licks masquerading as Troy, the faceless Troy wakes up from his coma, commandeers the surgical facility, and forces the surgeon to graft Archer’s face onto his own. He eliminates everyone who knew about the operation, and takes his place as FBI agent Archer.

“Face/Off” is an action-packed roller coaster. The action sequences (and there are many) are beautifully choreographed. The cinematography is excellent. Director John Woo cranks up the suspense using images of peace-candles, doves, and slow motion sequences—just prior to furious gun battles and breathless chase scenes. He holds your attention and keeps your adrenaline high.

This film, however, definitely is not for children or squeamish adults. It is as grisly and gory as you will find. There are scenes of operating-room gore, sadistic violence, self-mutilation, stomach-turning torture, blood spurting from severed arteries, and long sequences of slow-motion shootouts. The Castor Troy character is an utterly evil criminal madman—a cruelly menacing character almost painful to watch. There are several uses of bad language, some sexual groping, and some sections of dialogue that refer to sex of a most degrading kind.

If you’re in the market for an edge-of-the-seat, testosterone-charged, action maelstrom, and you don’t mind being exposed to lots of blood and gore, then this is the movie for you.

Year of Release—1997

Viewer Comments
First of all, the domino shoot-out scene was ORIGINATED by John Woo and COPIED by Quentin Tarantino. Just wanted to set that one straight, giving credit where credit is due. And yes, this film is violent and blasphemous. The Christian symbols used in this film are confusing because they are juxtaposed with blatantly non-Christian themes and actions. John Woo does a great job of directing his action scenes but he tried to do too much by trying to make a spiritual or religious statement—what ends up happening is an ambiguous statement of faith that no one can truly be sure of. If John Woo is a Christian, then he must sharpen that area of his craft that requires him to give glory to God and to point his audience there as well.
—Steve Jin, age 26
This movie has no redeeming social value. Travolta and Cage are good actors, but their abilities are overshadowed by the obscenities and violence. The plot is not believable (does this mean it’s science fiction?). From a Christian perspective, this movie unacceptable. It takes a few cuts at religion along the way. Don’t waste your time and money.
—Murray W. Burns, age 51
The last movie I saw by this director was BROKEN ARROW and I was very disapointed. However, he made up for it with FACE/OFF. I was very impressed with the acting of both Cage and Travolta and I loved that little comment Travolta made about his own chin. It is fun watching the two actors portray each other. They did an incredible job.
—Peter Wright, age 21
I went to this movie not knowing quite what to expect from the reviews I had read from this page. What I did end up seeing was a movie that did to action films, what Sergio Leone did to the western: paid an homage. And just as it took an Italian to show America what a true western meant, it takes John Woo, from Hong Kong, show Americans what the action movie has meant to American cinema. The final face off between Troy and Archer is as much of a cinematic marvel as the final showdown in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” One thing that did disturb me was seeing 5-year-olds being taken by their parents to this movie.
—Matt, age 20
Action packed but the writer or producer is demented. the sexual content made me feel like I felt when the woman in Rob Roy was raped (like puking!). I do not recommend this film!
—sam, age 27
I totally disagree with Jeff Grygny’s characterization of the scene showing the molestation of the choir girl as “Christian-bashing at its worst.” It was nothing of the sort. It simply showed how attractive and charismatic evil often is and people, even Christians, can be mislead. That doesn’t make it Christian bashing, it simply states a fact.
—Errol, age 44
Personally, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. I thought that Face/Off was a good film, but not as good as most critics think. However, it is a good, solid three-star movie. I am fifteen and have seen many violent action movies, and what I didn’t like about this film was the fact that so many police officers and FBI agents were gunned down throughout. This is the case with other action movies like Con Air as well. I mean, when it’s over, sure Sean Archer is safe and happy with his still-alive family, but what about all the other innocent people who died along the way?
—Mark Rinker, age 15
Good movie! Some beautiful shots and an interesting exploration of the family relationship between two criminals. Nicholas Cage is a phenomal ACTOR (key word here), who has overcome much, including depression, to be where he is today. Be prepared, though, because this film is a bit violent. It is not for the weak of stomach. I would recommend it to those who can eat popcorn and watch blood and those who can look past the scene with the priest and the obvious Christ imagery at the end to find a truly pathbreaking film!
—Aimee, age 21
FACE OFF has to be one of the most disappointing movies I have ever seen. Oh Yes,… this is the “world” what do we expect?! My God calls me to be holy and righteous to be separate from the rest of the world, to bring light not darkness! If this Woo person is a Christian, God have mercy on his soul because he sure fits into the “world” very well. I would not recommend this movie to anyone. Don’t waste your $$ or time. I wish I could permanently erase this experience from my mind.
—JH, age 33
This movie is a disgrace to all Christians. Having Nicolas Cage dress up as a priest and then grab the buttox of a young innocent girl was more than I could bear. The violence was also nauseating… I left the theater in a stupor of disgust.
—Bryan, age 19
It is scary to see some of the reviews of this movie and the quotes given: “one can find that this is truely a religous film,” Woo is an avid christian himself,” “it definitely had some offensive scenes and language—but what can you expect.” All these statements should wake us up as Christians and make us realize that to be a Christian means to live, work, and view differently (Be in the world not of it). A Sad Statement “clean” rated R movie, nor do I expect to.
—Brent Carey, age 35
I found it to be revolting, and My husband and I were sorry that we went to see this movie. It was violent, also showing how twisted a person can be, not to mention the main character worships satan, but it does show good wins over evil, But I feel I don’t need to put that kind of garbage in. There is a saying G.I.G.O. garbage in, garbage out.
—sheryl hill, age 37
“Face/Off” has some blatantly anti-Catholic scenes. Namely, the mocking of a priest and a shootout in a church. (That identical domino shootout scene, minus the sacrilege, is in “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.”)
—Brian, age 24
There is an odd thing about face/off. If one looks past the “action”, one can find that this is truely a religous film. Woo is an avid christian himself and I belive this shows thourgh in this film. There is a lot of christian iconography and many biblical ideas and morals. This film is for adults and thinking adults will find more christian ideas than in most other films this year. Study this movie and you may see the work of christian. God bless.
—charles moss, age 19
…i have found that if I would be embarrassed to have my mother, father, or jesus sitting next to me watching along with me, then I do not belong there! I know it sounds quite simplistic, but it works for me. based on the review, I could not sit and watch this film with Christ!
—cnichols, age 30
…I saw “Face-Off,” also. While it was indeed zany and intriguing, it had some problems, too. Castor/Cage molests a young girl singing in a church choir, for instance. Her strangely positive reaction suggests that Christians just need a charismatic psychopath to come along and steer them away from God. It is yet another example of Christian-bashing at its worst, and I personally feel this is far more destructive than the violent content.
—Jeff Grygny, age 29
…Face Off was definitely an awesome movie (comparable to Con Air), and it definitely had some offensive scenes and language—but what can you expect. I have never seen a “clean” rated R movie, nor do I expect to. If you want some cheap entertainment for 2 hours, face off is one of the best of this summer.
—Brian Pedigo, age 17
Face/Off is the action movie of the summer and easily one of the best of the decade. It was powerful and it kept me on the edge of my seat. Yeah, it was ultraviolent and very profane. That’s John Woo’s style… refer to his Hong Kong films. The sad part is that Sean Archer went through all that because he was obsessed with catching Castor Troy to avenge his son’s death. If someone had showed him that vengeance is the LORD’s, we wouldn’t have spent 2 hours and twenty minutes watching the two of them try to kill each other. We didn’t need to see the son’s death on screen-it was shown on purpose to make us choose sides… and once again, this is the world. What do you expect?…
—Chris Utley, age 24
The movie, while having a well written plot, was laced with filthy, crude language. Nicholas Cage is one of my favorite actors, and he and John Travolta do a good job portrating thier characters. However, the story would have been less offensive had the language, and sexual overtones not been so prevelant. The Bible teaches us as believers to fill our minds with that which is good and wholesome, this movie definitely did not eccourage me in my spiritual walk. I do not recommend this movie to anyone. …this movie used GD on numerous occasions, sexually suggestive comments were abundant, and it was saturated with violence and gore.
Dave Cline, age 23