Saturday, December 13, 2008

Film Review: FACE/OFF (1997, John Woo)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 140 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Margaret Cho, Nick Cassavetes, CCH Pounder, Gina Gershon, John Carroll Lynch (of ZODIAC and DREW CAREY), Alessandro Nivola, Dominique Swain (of Adrian Lyne's LOLITA), Matt Ross (THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, BIG LOVE), Thomas Jane (that makes two Patricia Arquette husbands in this movie), Chris Bauer, Tommy Flanagan (the scarred heavy from SIN CITY and SMOKIN' ACES), Kirk Baltz (the cop who loses an ear in RESERVOIR DOGS).
Tag-line: "In order to catch him, he must become him."
Best one-liner(s): "It's like looking in a mirror. Only... not. "

"Hello, Doctor. I hope you don't mind: I took a few of your groovy painkillers. I'm just enjoying some of your greatest hits here. Oh God, this is excellent. Oh, bravo. Bra-fucking-vo." So it's TANGO AND CASH meets DEMOLITION MAN meets FREAKY FRIDAY. And it's been directed by Tony Scott on a meth binge- John Woo. Damn! This movie really takes it up a notch. It's a symphonic ballet of particles; Woo's genius lies in the simplicity by which the film itself can be reduced to just objects in motion- tumbling men, flying glass shards, rotating debris, flapping doves, hurtling papers, cascading bullet casings. There would be no MATRIX without this. It's Peckinpah to the Nth degree, choreographed and concocted by a true mad scientist of cinema. The performances beg for hyperbole that goes beyond "over the top"- Cage and Travolta seem entwined in a battle to gorge themselves, to voraciously devour as much scenery as possible.

And Woo ensures that they never run out of scenery to chew upon. Joan Allen and Nick Cassavetes even get in on the action with, respectively, some ridiculous gasping,

and the probably ad-libbed line "THEY'RE LIKE COCKROACHES!"

There's WILD AT HEART references, inappropriate use of "Over the Rainbow," and lots of talk about 'tongue sucking.' In closing, this film perhaps should have been titled, FACE/TOUCHING.

There is more face touching than in any other movie I have ever seen. So try the FACE/OFF drinking game; take one drink every time someone touches someone else's face, and by the close, I guarantee you will be almost as crazy as Nick Cage.

"If I were to send you flowers where would I... no, let me rephrase that. If I were to let you tongue, would you be grateful?"

-Sean Gill

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