Film Scouts Reviews


by Leslie Rigoulot

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"Face/Off" is what the other action films of the summer aspire to be: cool. From the hands of director John Woo comes the beginning-to-end hard-charging good-versus-evil battle royale with incredible concept. And thanks to the ambiguity of the commercials, there is actual suspense! I know, what a novel concept for a summer movie! So I'm not going to give too much of it away. But here's the premise: John Travolta is good-guy, stressed-out super cop on the trail of the man who killed his son. Nicolas Cage is the bad guy, drug-hyped leader of a terrorist group. His name is Pollax Troy, and his younger brother is Castor Troy. Nice play on Greek mythology in a summer sure to be dominated by Disney's faux-Hercules. The brothers have planted a nerve gas bomb in LA, (like anyone would notice a change in the smog index if it went off) and it is up to the good guy to find the bomb at any cost. And the cost may be his family, his job and his identity. My only complaint is that I kept seeing Joan Allen as Pat Nixon, another good wife. But Gina Gershon makes up for that by having more depth as the bad girl.

Hong Kong action director Woo worked with Travolta on "Broken Arrow" and knows his range. So, having the limitless Nic Cage teamed with him had to be a director's delight. And having one person switch identities would have been interesting but having Travolta and Cage take on each other's personalities was a joy to behold. Each has the chance to go over the top as the villain and each gets to be understated as the hero. It is an opportunity to excel that all take full advantage of. If you are familiar with Woo's work, you will be comfortable with the constant barrage of violent action, the slow-motion for emphasis and double-getting the drop on the other guy. "Face/Off" is the kind of action film that gives summer movies a better reputation. Rated R, from Paramount.

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