Face/Off: 2-Disc Special Collector's Edition – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com


John Woo


John Travolta ………. Sean Archer/Castor Troy
Nicolas Cage ………. Castor Troy/Sean Archer
Joan Allen ………. Dr. Eve Archer
Gina Gershon ………. Sasha Hassler
Alessandro Nivola ………. Pollux Troy
Dominique Swain ………. Jamie Archer
Nick Cassavetes ………. Dietrich Hassler

The Movie

When you watch a movie you are often asked to willingly suspend disbelief in order for the movie to work in your mind and for you to be entertained. Sometimes that is easier said than done. It helps, though, if a preposterous premise is supported by some fantastic acting. That way, you can forget that the main idea behind the film is absurd. Oh, and the addition of fast and furious action, cool, interesting characters, and even scenes that are emotionally-impacting help too. And only John Woo could do all of the above in Face/Off, his best movie in America.

Sounding like a hockey scrimmage, Face/Off stars John Travolta as Sean Archer, a government agent who for six years has been trying to apprehend terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), the man who tried to kill him but ended up killing his son instead. When Archer corners Troy, Troy tells Archer that he has planted a bomb that will go off, that is unless he lets him go. No dice as Archer thinks that Troy is bluffing. A fight ensues and Troy is left comatose.

Turns out Troy wasn’t bluffing after all.

The attempt to find out the where and the when by interrogating Castor Troy’s brother Pollux leads nowhere. The only person Pollux will talk about the bomb is with brother Castor. Too bad he’s in a vegetated state…until, a government official suggests to Archer that he can assume Castor’s identity and ask Pollux about the bomb.

The procedure is surgical and results in removing the face of one individual and placing it on another. Archer agrees to become Troy. Going undercover into the prison where Pollux is being held, he tries to find out the bomb’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Troy, believed to be comatose, awakens and forces the doctor who operated on Archer to place Archer’s face on him. He then goes to the prison as Archer and taunts Archer by telling him that he has destroyed all documentation of the operation and eliminated everyone who knew about it. He then takes his brother out and leaves Archer in prison. But Archer/Troy somehow manages to escape and is now trying to find someone who will believe and help him, while Troy/Archer is plotting something else entirely.

Face/Off was a film that turned out to be more of an emotional thriller with action than a science-fiction movie with stunt work. Which is probably a good thing. The idea that you could actually take someone’s face right off and transport it to someone else is ridiculous. But the concept works because of the actors taking on the persona’s of their archenemy. It also helps that the writers make it clear from the get-go just who the characters truly are. One is steadfast and intense; the other enjoys eating “peaches” for hours.

By suspending disbelief you can look past the absurd premise thanks to John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. These two actors brought their best to this movie. They are asked to play both a villain and a hero, and they pull off each archetype perfectly. Looking at each scene and realizing that these are two actors playing two different characters, there’s an intrinsic quality to enjoy.

The main criticism of this movie is the action scenes. Some say the action is over-the-top; it’s too violent, too long, and too much. John Woo made a name for himself by directing stylized, violent action sequences like the ones found in this movie. At times it does seem a bit much, but then you remember the emotion that is behind every bullet being shot. This movie is not filled with action scenes just to have action in it. These action scenes actually mean something more in the grand scheme of things than what’s just on the screen.

Even though this film was released ten years ago, it is still a quality action film and one that holds up to the CGI-driven projects of today. It is easily forgotten, but one look at it again will make you realize this action film is one to remember. The dual roles played by both John Travolta and Nicolas Cage are as entertaining as they are interesting. They master their parts and bring this movie to another level. Without the winning combination of acting, storytelling, and action, this movie would have fallen flat based on its silly premise. But as it is, Face/Off is a must-watch for fans of great movies, regardless of whether they are action fans or not.

The Video:

The video is given in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen color, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The video is comparable to other new release DVDs. Definitely an upgrade from the previous version released in 1998.

The Audio:

The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX sound, English 6.1 DTS sound, or French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound.There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. No problems real problems here either, and another definite upgrade from the first release. The music and dialogue come out loud and clear.

The Extras:

Audio Commentaries
There are two audio commentaries. One with John Woo (director), Mike Werb (writer), and Michael Colleary (writer). The other is just with Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. I have no idea why there are two separate commentaries with two of the same people involved in both. The second one with Mike Werb and Michael Colleary is different than the first one, but there is not enough new information to really recommend listening to both. It would have been better if Cage and Travolta could have gotten into the action on one of these commentaries. Nonetheless, these commentaries do provide a good amount of information.

“The Light and the Dark: Making of Face/Off” Featurette
This is a SUPER-LONG “behind-the-scenes” featurette. There are five parts to this featurette and it runs over an hour. The cast and crew today talk about making this movie ten years ago.

“John Woo: A Life in Pictures” Featurette
This is a 30-minute featurette on John Woo and his life and work as a director. There are lots of pictures of his life from his childhood to today as John Woo and others tells us his history.

Alternate Ending
They included the deleted ending that John Woo wanted, but the studio didn’t. It’s very interesting to watch, but I liked the ending in the final cut. Although, it may be too “Hollywood” for some. With optional commentary, listen to why John Woo wanted this ending instead.

Deleted Scenes
There are a few of these, and actually some interesting ones that were cut from the movie. John Woo, Mike Werb, and Michael Colleary also comment on each scene and tell you why each one was cut from the movie. Highly recommended viewing.


This is a definite rental, leaning towards a buy, for most action fans. This is also a definite buy for John Travolta or Nicolas Cage fans. They are really at their best in this movie. But I recommend a rental for anyone, really. You don’t have to like action to like this movie. It helps, but you can still be entertained by the acting, complex characters, and emotion in this movie.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Face/Off
(OUT OF 10)






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