FACE/OFF (1997)

Order FACE/OFF from Amazon and support ClanMurphy.net

Order FACE/OFF from Amazon and support ClanMurphy.net

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.

movie soundtrack available from Amazon

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.

Who are you calling "hammy"?

Who are you calling “hammy”?

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:

 

nicholas-cage-duster

Nice Coat!

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.

face-off-duster-in-the-wind

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:

“Fresh tactics!”

and

Let’s go, let’s go, I’m bored, let’s go…

and

Are you ready? Are you ready for the big ride, baby…?

This is really good stuff.