Before watching FACE/OFF completely, I had taken a look at one of director John Woo's Hong Kong action epics, THE KILLER. I must say, I prefer FACE/OFF better. Sure, both films have that same over-the-top operatic style, but at least FACE/OFF isn't as shamelessly sentimental as THE KILLER was. In THE KILLER, Woo's main characters both demolished hundreds of extras in graphically bloody style, and towards the end it got a bit too much even for me. In FACE/OFF, the gore isn't quite as graphic, and while the body count is still pretty high, it never got to the point that I was disgusted.
I'm not a knee-jerk admirer of John Woo as some people are. That slow-motion technique of his can become wince-inducingly excessive, especially now that many lesser action directors have started to rip off his style. In this case, though, one is too engrossed in the plot and in awe of the high-energy action staging to notice.
Of course, most people probably already have an idea of what the plot is about: criminal Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) dies, but he has planted a bomb somewhere in LA, so obsessive detective Sean Archer (John Travolta) literally swaps identities with his arch-nemesis to go undercover at a high-tech prison to find out where that bomb is. Obviously, this situation leads to various complications as Troy wakes up from his coma, takes Archer's face, kills the doctors who performed the operation, and then tries to find Archer. It's the typical body-switch, and I would be remiss to mention that Troy is responsible for the death of Archer's son many years ago, and thus Archer has a vendetta against him that explains his obsessiveness.Read more ›
Second, this movie has the most beautiful action sequences of any action movie I have ever seen (excluding epic-type movies, i.e. LOTR, Star Wars, Braveheart, etc.). This is a film that knows it's an action movie and revels in it. The cinematography in the fight scenes simultaneously displays the nature of the characters and the intensity of the battle between them. There are so many moments when you will just delight at the visual art that is every action sequence in this film. Needless to say, this movie has all the gunfights, fistfights, chases, and large explosions that one would expect in a serious action film.
If you like action movies, this is the first one I would recommend.