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Face/Off (1997): Why Did the Ref Call the Leper Hockey Game?

Face/Off (John Woo, 1997)

[originally posted 2Mar2000]

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Diurnal Affairs.

First: what kind of weird coincidence causes me to suddenly rent two films containing tracks by Tricky, when I didn’t know either did? Weird, that. (and “Christian Sands” is one of my faves, too…)

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“Man, we’re point blank and I bet you still couldn’t even manage to hit my hair!”

Another movie I’m split on, but in this case I know why: while Nicholas Cage shone in this film in a way I’ve never seen before, John Travolta couldn’t hold up his end of it at all.

Cage was brilliant. Best I’ve ever seen him do. Bounces from complete fanatic to distraught cop with no problems at all, and plays both roles so convincingly you can actually believe they could suck a face off person A and deposit it on person B. On the other hand, Cage walked into Travolta’s role halfway through this film, with Travolta having set him up badly. And that was the role Travolta played well. I don’t know why he was so off here, but he just wasn’t up to snuff, especially after the switch. He just didn’t work as a psycho (odd, considering he worked so well as an antisocial murderer in Pulp Fiction). Go figger.

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“You just bring that do over here and we’ll see what happens, baby.”

So ultimately, the movie has to stand or fall on the ensemble cast, since Travolta’s given it two strikes. And it stands. Alessandro Nivola, especially, is wonderful as Nicholas Cage’s brainy, sociopathic brother, and Nick Cassavetes makes a fine, fine bad guy. Add in the patented John Woo action sequences, and this becomes a couple of hours of good escapist fluff, if you can get past John Travolta as Mr. Wooden Personality. ** ½



About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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