One of the Clan’s great little Guilty Pleasures
by Debra Murphy
Okay, it’s not Shakespeare. In fact, the “high concept” premise—an FBI agent (John Travolta) changes faces with a comatose terrorist-for-hire (Nicholas Cage) in order to find the location of a dirty bomb that will destroy “Hell-A”—is, on the, er, face of it, ridiculous.
But hell. FACE/OFF, the gun ballet actioner that made John Woo a household word among the American movie-going public, is just way too much fun not to watch every couple of years or so. And we in Clan Murphy do.
And do again. And yet again. It’s definitely a drop-the-needle-anywhere-and-the-rest-of-your-evening-is-toast movie.
For starters (literally), it has in my view one of the best opening sequences in any movie, of any genre. A definite you-had-me-at-hello kick-off to this Face/Off. In less than two minutes, you know exactly what the movie is about, what the stakes are, and why these two men will not stop until one of them kills the other. You also know that you are safe in the hands of a masterful director and a couple of wonderfully hammy actors going nose-to-nose and mano-a-mano.
FACE/OFF also boasts a terrific (and surprisingly lyrical) score by one of the best action movie composers of the last two decades, John Powell. (Powell went on to do the brilliant scores to the Bourne movies.)
Here’s the gorgeous opening:
If you’re into “nice coats,” check out Castor Troy’s gorgeous black duster. (Better than a black hat and mustache for signaling “I am a Badass.”) The whole Woo-ish wind-whipping thing has, since this scene, become something of a filmic meme for Badassery, both heroic and villainous.
In the nose-to-nose department, this scene is one of my faves:
And of course Cage and Travolta go mano-a-mano on several occasions with balletic fervor, as only John Woo can concoct it. They’re all terrific, but I can’t resist a shoot-out-with-doves-in-a-church:
Last but not (for the Clan) least, FACE/OFF has contributed several phrases to the Clanese Dictionary:
This is really good stuff.