|Directed by||John Woo|
|Music by||John Powell|
|Box office||$245.7 million|
The first Hollywood film in which Woo was given major creative control, Face/Off earned critical acclaim for the performances by Cage and Travolta and its stylized action sequences. The film earned $245 million worldwide, making it the 11th highest-grossing film of 1997, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Sound Effects Editing (Mark Stoeckinger and Per Hallberg) at the 70th Academy Awards. Since its release, the film gained a strong cult following and it’s considered by many as one of John Woo’s best films.
FBI Special Agent Sean Archer survives an assassination attempt by homicidal sociopath Castor Troy, but the bullet penetrates Archer's chest and strikes his son Michael, killing the boy.
Six years later, Archer's vendetta against Castor culminates in his team ambushing Castor, who is with his younger brother and accomplice Pollux, at a remote desert airstrip. Castor goads Archer with knowledge of a bomb located somewhere in Los Angeles set to go off in a few days, before being knocked into a coma before Archer can learn more. Pollux, in custody, affirms that the bomb is real but refuses to reveal its location. In secret, Archer reluctantly undergoes a highly experimental face transplant procedure by Dr. Malcolm Walsh to take on Castor Troy's face, voice, and appearance. Archer-as-Troy is taken to the same high-security prison where Pollux is being held. He manages to convince Pollux that he is Troy, and gains information on the bomb's location.
Castor Troy unexpectedly awakens from his coma and discovers his face missing. He calls his gang, and they force Dr. Walsh to transplant Archer's face onto him. Troy then kills the only people who know of the transplant.
At the prison, Archer-as-Troy prepares to tell Biondi of the location but is surprised when Troy-as-Archer is there. Troy-as-Archer goads Archer-as-Troy that no one knows of the transplant, and that he will take over Archer's life. Pollux is freed when he willingly tells Troy-as-Archer of the bomb's location, and Troy-as-Archer disarms the bomb in a dramatic fashion. Troy-as-Archer earns admiration from the FBI office and becomes close to Archer's wife Eve and daughter Jamie, whom Archer had been neglecting while chasing down Troy.
Back at the prison, Archer-as-Troy escapes after staging a riot and retreats to Troy's headquarters. He meets Sasha, the sister of Troy's primary drug kingpin, and her son Adam, who reminds Archer of Michael. Archer-as-Troy discovers that Adam is Troy's son. Troy learns of Archer's escape and hastily assembles a team to raid his headquarters. The raid turns into a bloodbath and many FBI agents and several members of Troy's gang, including Pollux, are killed, while Archer, Sasha, and Adam are able to escape. Archer's supervisor, Director Victor Lazarro, blames Troy-as-Archer for the numerous slayings. Troy-as-Archer, furious over Pollux's death, kills Lazarro, and makes it look like a heart attack. Troy-as-Archer is promoted to acting director. Archer-as-Troy finds safety for Sasha and Adam. Then he approaches Eve and convinces her to test Troy-as-Archer's blood to prove his identity. After testing the blood and being convinced of her husband's identity, Eve tells Archer that Troy will be vulnerable at Lazarro's funeral.
At the ceremony, Archer-as-Troy finds that Troy-as-Archer has anticipated his actions and taken Eve hostage. Sasha arrives, and a gunfight ensues; Sasha manages to save Eve after taking a bullet. Archer-as-Troy promises a dying Sasha that he will take care of Adam and raise him away from criminal life.
In a fight between the rivals outside, Jamie shoots and injures Archer-as-Troy. Troy-as-Archer flees the church with Archer-as-Troy pursuing him. Troy-as-Archer briefly takes Jamie hostage, but she escapes by stabbing him with the butterfly knife that Troy-as-Archer had given her for self-defense. Troy-as-Archer reaches the docks and commandeers a speedboat, and Archer-as-Troy follows and commandeers one of his own. A chase ensues, that ends when Archer-as-Troy forces Troy-as-Archer to the shore by collision. With the boats grounded, Archer-as-Troy bests Troy-as-Archer in a melee fight. Troy-as-Archer mutilates his - Archer's - face to taunt and distract Archer-as-Troy, but Archer-as-Troy instead gains the upper hand and impales Troy-as-Archer with a spear gun, killing him. Backup agents arrive and address Archer-as-Troy as Archer, having been convinced by Eve of Archer's true identity.
After the face transplant surgery is reversed, Archer returns home, where he adopts Adam into his family, keeping his promise to Sasha.
Face/Off was a spec script which writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary optioned to Joel Silver and Warner Bros. in 1991. The option expired in 1994 and the project was purchased by Paramount Pictures. Rob Cohen was originally set to direct the film but when the project was in a turnaround Cohen left to direct Dragonheart. John Woo became attached in 1996. The first actors who were envisioned by the writers to play Sean Archer and Castor Troy were Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger due to their oversized on-screen personas. Johnny Depp wanted to play Sean Archer but passed on the role after reading the script. John Woo instead hired John Travolta and Nicolas Cage to play those characters. Michael Douglas served as an executive producer. Werb and Colleary have cited White Heat (1949) as an influence on the plot.
With an $80 million production budget, Face/Off made heavy use of action set pieces including several violent shootouts and a boat chase filmed in the Los Angeles area. The boat scene at the end of the film was shot in San Pedro.
All music is composed by John Powell, except as noted.
|2.||"80 Proof Rock"||4:29|
|4.||"The Golden Section Derma Lift"||3:15|
|5.||"This Ridiculous Chin"||6:51|
|6.||"No More Drugs for That Man"||John Powell, Gavin Greenaway||7:27|
|7.||"Hans' Loft"||John Powell, Gavin Greenaway||3:34|
|8.||"Ready for the Big Ride‚ Bubba"||3:53|
Several pieces of music and songs were used in the film but not included in the soundtrack. These include:
Face/Off was released on Region 1 DVD on October 7, 1998. A 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD was released on September 11, 2007 and it was also released on the now-defunct HD DVD format on October 30, 2007 in the United States.
The film was released on Blu-ray Disc in the United Kingdom on October 1, 2007 by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and was released in the United States on May 20, 2008 by Paramount Home Entertainment.
Face/Off was released in North America on June 27, 1997 and earned $23,387,530 on its opening weekend, ranking number one in the domestic box office. It went on to become the 11th highest domestic and 14th worldwide grossing film of 1997, earning a domestic total of $112,276,146 and $133,400,000 overseas for a total of worldwide gross of $245,676,146.
The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes records that 92% of 87 critical reviews were positive, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "John Travolta and Nicolas Cage play cat-and-mouse (and literally play each other) against a beautifully stylized backdrop of typically elegant, over-the-top John Woo violence." On Metacritic, the film received a score of 82 out of 100 from 25 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
The role reversal between Travolta and Cage was a subject of praise, as were the stylized, violent action sequences. Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four and remarked: "Here, using big movie stars and asking them to play each other, Woo and his writers find a terrific counterpoint to the action scenes: All through the movie, you find yourself reinterpreting every scene as you realize the 'other' character is 'really' playing it." Rolling Stone's Peter Travers said of the film, "You may not buy the premise or the windup, but with Travolta and Cage taking comic and psychic measures of their characters and their own careers, there is no resisting Face/Off. This you gotta see." Richard Corliss of Time said that the film "isn't just a thrill ride, it's a rocket into the thrilling past, when directors could scare you with how much emotion they packed into a movie."
Barbara Shulgasser of the San Francisco Examiner called the movie "idiotic" and argued that "a good director would choose the best of the six ways and put it in his movie. Woo puts all six in. If you keep your eyes closed during a Woo movie and open them every six minutes, you'll see everything you need to know to have a perfectly lovely evening at the cinema."
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing (Mark Stoeckinger and Per Hallberg) at the 70th Academy Awards, but lost to another Paramount film Titanic. Face/Off also won Saturn Awards for Best Director and Best Writing, and the MTV Movie Awards for Best Action Sequence (the speedboat chase) and Best On-Screen Duo for Travolta and Cage.
Face/Off is said to have inspired Infernal Affairs. However, Infernal Affairs director Andrew Lau wanted to have a more realistic situation; instead of a physical face change, Lau wanted to have the characters swap identities. The concept of "bian lian" or "change face", a technique traditionally used in Chinese opera, may have been used here to depict the fluid and seamless morph of Chen and Lau's characters' identities between the "good" and "bad" sides. Infernal Affairs in turn has spawned several adaptations, notably The Departed directed by Martin Scorsese which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Paramount Pictures announced in September 2019 plans to remake Face/Off with a new cast. David Permut will be executive producer, with Neal Moritz to produce and Oren Uziel to write. In February 2021, it was reported that Adam Wingard would direct and the film would be a direct sequel to the original.
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