Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 9/26/98
1997 (1998) - Paramount
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
OK, so there are logical holes here big enough to drive a truck
through. If you can get past that, Face/Off
delivers stylish, high-powered action, entertainingly campy
performances and just plain good fun.
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Darkly stylish anamorphic widescreen video (if a bit grainy), and
excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. A theatrical trailer is
Overall Rating: B
Whether you're a fan of director John Woo, actors Travolta and
Cage, or just big-time gangster action, I'm guessing you'll dig Face/Off.
The bullets really fly, and with this sound, you'll hear every one.
A very nice DVD.
140 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:00:01, just after
the start of chapter 19), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical
trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (40 chapters),
languages: English (DD 5.1), English & French (DD 2.0),
subtitles: Spanish, Close Captioned
OK, the story here is pretty... unique. Vile terrorist and
all-around nasty guy Castor Troy (Cage) kills the young son of FBI
agent Sean Archer (Travolta) in a shooting. Years later, Archer is
out for revenge - he'll get Troy if it's the last thing he does, no
matter what the risk. This of course, has taken a heavy toll on his
family life, particularly his relationship with his wife (Joan
Allen). Archer finally gets his chance, of course, confronting and
catching Troy after an elaborate gunfight/Lear jet chase. But
there's a problem - through Troy lies comatose, he's hidden a
massive bomb, plum full of deadly biological agents, somewhere in
the middle of Los Angeles. Only his brother Pollux, who is now
rotting in prison, knows where it is. So Archer devises a clever
plan: with the help of some expert surgeons, and the latest medical
technology, he'll literally switch faces with Troy, then go
undercover inside the prison to trick Pollux into telling him the
bomb's location. Still with me? Naturally, it doesn't quite go
according to plan. Troy wakes up at the clinic, and discovers
himself without a face. So he forces the doctors to give him
Archer's, which is just sitting there 'on ice' awaiting his return.
Now, Troy (whom everyone thinks is Archer) turns the tables on
Archer (whom everyone thinks is Troy), by moving in with his family
and generally turning his world upside down. And poor Archer (as
Troy) finds himself stuck in prison, helpless to prevent it. Whew!
Anyone familiar with director John Woo's work (Broken
Arrow, The Killer,
etc...), knows that he digs big action sequences, particularly
involving as many bullets and explosions as possible. He delivers
exactly that here, with lots of great, fluid camera work, and tight
staging. But it's the performances by Cage and Travolta that really
stand out in Face/Off. Given
the central gimmick of the admittedly campy plot, these two actors
really allow themselves to cut loose, each assuming the mannerisms
of the other. The result is highly entertaining, with terrific
interplay and tongue-in-cheek banter between the two. Cage and
Travolta absolutely make this film, and more importantly, they make
it a lot of fun to watch. So much so, that you quickly forget the
fact that anyone who has had even a minor nose job, is usually black
and blue for weeks, much less having your entire face replaced! Ever
seen someone after a chemical peel? It ain't pretty, man, let me
tell ya. Oh well, no matter.
The DVD version of Face/Off
definitely delivers in terms of picture and sound quality, although
not quite as well as another of Paramount's first DVDs, Star
Trek: First Contact. The anamorphic widescreen picture,
although dark, is generally very good, but there's a bit more
digital artifacting visible (notice the Paramount logo at the very
beginning of the film). The print also exhibits a bit more grain,
and there's a bit of Digital Video Noise Reduction present. But, as
with First Contact, the
contrast and color saturation are terrific. Check out chapter 3 -
note Troy's gold-plated guns, and that bright orange Chiclets box.
This is vibrant color indeed. The DVD video presentation is very
film-like, and thoroughly engrossing. You'll spot a bit more dust on
the print, but overall, the picture flaws are pretty minor.
The sound is also excellent, but again, not quite in the same
league as First Contact.
There's not as much use of the rear channels, to create a sense of
depth to the sound field. Nonetheless, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio
is thunderous, and you'll hear every bullet zing past your head.
Again, you must select the 5.1 soundtrack from the menu prior to
starting the film, or you'll hear the default Dolby Surround. As
with the other Paramount titles, there's a theatrical trailer
included, and a mix of languages (English & French), subtitles
(Spanish) and Captions (English). Not a bevy of extras, but the
basics are covered.
There is one other minor issue I have with this DVD - the layer
switch. The disc is RSDL dual-layered, and the switch takes place
moments into chapter 19 (1:00:01), just as Travolta is about to
enter the interrogation room. The placement of the switch is a bit
distracting - I saw several better places for it, where it would
have been less noticeable. Again, I'm picking nits. No doubt
Paramount will get better at hiding their layer-switches.
Face/Off is a guilty pleasure
- a zero-logic action film that thoroughly entertains, and which
delivers some great psychological tension. Cage and Travolta are in
high form - there's plenty of testosterone and swagger to go around.
You can tell they had a blast making this film, and if you suspend
your disbelief, you'll have an equally great time watching it.
Overall, a darn cool DVD.