A part of me really wants to like Face/Off much more than I do. It has a lot going for it: a stylistic, yet dated, director, an intriguing and suitable cast, a great compositional music score, impressive production design, you-name-it. However, under all this deliberate style and obvious ambition, it instead collapses beneath all its own remarkable potential. That's not to say the picture doesn't bode well in what it tries to succeed in doing, but in the end, its premise was far-more brilliant than the end-product it produced.
Nicolas Cage, while necessarily eccentric and maniacal in his approach, catapults himself way beyond what some would refer to as 'over the top.' He's a gifted presence, but I'm not certain he performed in a way that was both beneficial and complimentary to his character(s). He often ejects the viewer's attention away from the emotional dilemma of both central characters by dressing his acting duties in a mania not-so relevant to the script and/or other performers. Travolta is also guilty of this. While I enjoyed his 'good-guy' persona, his inconsistent, dance-like routine as the bad guy (or Nicolas Cage's Castor Troy) was remarkably impersonated, and when Cage is guilty of such over-reaching, this impersonation can often fall to embarrassing levels.
The director, John Woo, whose style and achievements now seem to sit at the bottom of a Hollywood pile of been-there and done-that's, focused his efforts on his camera, which seemingly captured far too many scenes in their almighty, slow-motion glory. He accomplishes his goal: to serve action fans a picture that--at least at the time--was different, stylistic, and bold in its special effects. It's just a shame he was left with little-to-nothing to work with in terms of his cast and script. Again, the idea is brilliant; cleverly trade places with someone you're trying to not only understand criminally but also to accurately predict his vast and consistent travels. I like that. I just can't help but feel disappointed that the film concentrates more on style than it does its script. Personally, this is one of those ideas I think could be reworked with a more-focused, story-oriented director. To reiterate, the premise is great, the cast was inspired if not a let-down, the musical score is both thematic and character-worthy, and the action scenes were well done. But in the end, the picture falls into typical 90's mediocrity and cannot be saved by the few stylish things it has going for it.
- D.T. Rose