It Belongs in the Louvre

It’s not that Face/Off attempts to legitimize the science behind a face swap involving a federal agent and homegrown terrorist. As a setup for a wild, eccentric action flick directed by John Woo and starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, that’s priceless studio cinema.

Rather, it’s Face/Off’s attempts to legitimize this through themes of loss and grief, as if, somehow, the lovers of these men won’t catch on to the numerous personality quirks. For an actor, the job is a one-off chance to play another star, to which Cage and Travolta have a blast doing. For an audience, it’s simply laughable to wring emotion from this schlock concept.

When at full speed, few can match Face/Off’s energy

There are numerous scenes that belie logic and the mind, and Woo’s direction gives the action a preposterously lyrical flair, as he usually does. After a runway chase in which villain Castor Troy (Cage, initially) smashes a plane through a hangar, Sean Archer (Travolta, again, initially) returns home and readily turns on his father mode. Clearly, a life or death struggle against a mega terrorist resulting in the deaths of 20+ people is a casual Monday for him.

Face/Off’s greatest strength is its willingness to keep an immovable straight face about this whole thing, as if it’s perfectly plausible and rational. For that alone, Face/Off deserves respect, let alone the high-concept action, from futuristic oil rig prisons to a boat chase finale that’s a template for all ‘90s genre movies.

But the drama… oof, the drama. It’s forced, stubborn, and weird, delivering awkward, even uncomfortable sexual suggestiveness. Travolta ogling his on-screen teen daughter is putrid, as if Castor Troy’s prior actions (like setting up a bomb to wipe out Los Angeles) somehow wasn’t villainous enough.

Cage is the best thing about this movie, a role absolutely written to be played by him. His weird ticks and bizarre line deliveries suggest internet era memes before they were even a thing (but did, in fact, become that thing). Replete with Woo’s trademark doves and a standoff, Cage fights his nemesis in a wildly goofy shootout with both men trying to reconcile their lives as they fire. It’s asinine by any measure, if also hilariously entertaining at its best. When at full speed, few can match Face/Off’s energy.

Video

After years of dismal home video masters, Kino is the one to finally get it right with a gorgeous new visual presentation. Salvaged from a DNR’d and edge enhanced existence, Face/Off’s flawless light grain structure is intact. Sharpness remains high throughout, creating precise definition when in close with some beautiful wide shots too.

In Dolby Vision, John Woo’s endless stream of sparks and bullet ricochets bring a spectacular peak brightness. Stellar contrast sustains the image’s dimension, helped by the beefy black levels. Shadows hit a dense black.

Grading favors warm flesh tones, but not exaggerated. The palette provides vibrancy to explosions, while giving the scenery lift. Dense greenery and other landscape elements appear rich in color.

Audio

Thick low-end makes for a superlative DTS-HD 5.1 track, high in spectacle and range. Explosions (and even the score) make a definite mark on their arrival, giving Face/Off weight comparable to any modern action film.

Delicate use of the rears expand the action but don’t draw unnecessary attention to themselves. It’s precise, clean, and widely spaced, without any fidelity issues. Gunshots and sparks bounce around the soundstage exquisitely. Even some lesser moments have starring roles, such as the surgery as equipment beeps and bounces in each speaker. Maybe that’s not a reference sequence, but it’s brilliantly mixed.

Extras

Commentaries in triplicate begin with John Woo and his writers, Mike Werb and Michael Connelly. The latter two also star on their own individual commentary, and the third track features historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema. Woo rejoins the writers to offer optional chatting over deleted scenes, with a making of and John Woo featurette bringing this disc to a close.

Face/Off
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Impossibly stupid in its premise, Face/Off delights in how far it willingly chooses to go with the concept.

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User Review
3.5 (4 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 41 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:


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