[Screen It]


(1997) (John Travolta, Nicolas Cage) (R)

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Smoking Tense Family
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Action/Adventure: An antiterrorism agent assumes the identity of a terrorist and vice versa in their ever continuing game of cat and mouse.
Antiterrorism agent Sean Archer (JOHN TRAVOLTA) has been hot on the trail of Castor Troy (NICOLAS CAGE) ever since that terrorist killed his son in an assassination attempt on Sean's life. Never the same since, Sean has devoted his life to catching Castor, leaving wife Eve (JOAN ALLEN) and daughter Jamie (DOMINIQUE SWAIN) alone, both physically and emotionally for long periods of time. When Sean finally nabs his man, things seem good until they discover that Sean's brother, Pollux (ALESSANDRO NIVOLA), has planted a bomb and won't talk to anyone. So Sean surgically assumes Castor's physical appearance, but things go from bad to worse as Castor returns the favor by doing the same and then killing everyone who knows of the switch. Thus, Sean finds himself as Castor, and must do everything he can to catch Castor who's now playing the good guy. As the two then lead each other's lives, Sean uses Castor's associates, Sasha (GINA GERSHON) and Dietrich Hassler (NICK CASSAVETES), to find the terrorist, while Castor tries to eliminate Sean as he gets cozy with his family.
Fans of Travolta ("Broken Arrow," "Phenomenon"), Cage ("Con Air," "The Rock,"), director John Woo ("Broken Arrow," "The Killer"), or of action films in general probably will.
For intense sequences of strong violence, and for strong language.
Since the characters switch physical appearances, both JOHN TRAVOLTA and NICOLAS CAGE play the "good" and "bad" guys (ie. Travolta is the good guy at first, but then plays the bad guy after the villain assumes his physical look). It's confusing, but by character name alone, Sean is the hero, who's been distant from his family after their son's death, and must act like the bad guy (getting into fights, shooting, but only wounding the police, etc...). Castor Troy is the villain who continues his evil ways even after assuming the physical look of Sean and thus isn't a good role model.


OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
In what's easily the best action film of this summer (and of many other summers for that matter), Hong Kong director John Woo returns to his cinematic masterpiece style with "Face/Off." Known for his ultra-violent but visually stunning films, such as 1989's "The Killer," Woo struck out with his first Hollywood venture, "Hard Target" (1993 with Jean Claude Van Damme). He had more success with his sophomore attempt, "Broken Arrow" (1996), that teamed him for the first time with actor John Travolta who got to hone his skills at playing a villain. Those were just pale warm-ups, however, for this film that puts all of this summer's other "action" films, such as "Speed 2," "The Lost World," and "Con Air," to shame. The plot is ingeniously wild -- an action variation on those body switching movies from the eighties -- and keeps you engrossed all the way through to the end. Granted you must be able to overlook the film's ultra-violent approach, but Woo's direction and cinematographer Oliver Wood's imaginative eye create the equivalent of a violent ballet filled with engagingly filmed gun battles, explosions, and elaborately choreographed action scenes. In addition, as with most "summer" movies, you do have to suspend a great deal of disbelief to fully enjoy this movie. Surgically transplanted body characteristics, computer chip implants that imitate others' voices, a prison that keeps its prisoners in check with magnetic boots, and two guys who take a beating better than Timex watches and, like the Energizer bunny, just keep going and going are just some of those reality stretches. This film's vigor and enthusiastic approach, however, make all of that fairly easy to swallow. Woo also adds a human touch albeit small that gives the production added depth, something that's missing from most action films. He also uses subtle symbolism, such as John always feeling his wife's face as a sign of affection, that also add more substance to the film. And a scene where Travolta and Cage stand on opposite sides of a two-sided mirror and see each other, but really themselves in the reflection, is wildy inventive and fabulously shot. The leads have rarely been better, with Cage cementing his status as Hollywood's new action hero, and Travolta reveling in another outrageous villain character that he plays to full tilt. All of this, of course, stems from the script by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary who provide an antidote to the usual dummied down plot, characters, and dialogue so commonly found in today's films. Mixing action, sci-fi, and liberal amounts of plot twists and humor, it's absolutely certain that you won't see a film like this all year. If you can tolerate the often bloody, extreme violence, you'll find a unique summer film that's engrossing, entertaining, and outrageously wild. We give "Face/Off" a 7.5 out of 10.
Despite our above praise, this certainly isn't a film for younger children, and is probably questionable for all but older teens. With enough ammo fired for several war movies, this is an ultra-violent film that's often quite bloody. With its heavily stylized violence and gunplay, parents should note that these actions are glamorized simply by the way they're lovingly filmed, and impressionable minds might get the wrong idea about guns and shooting people. Profanity is extreme with 30 "f" words, but sexuality is pretty much limited to some comments, cartoon nudity, and implied activity. Even so, it's the violence and casual attitude taken toward killing people that will top parents' concerns regarding this film. Because of this, we strongly suggest that you read through the scene listings to determine whether this film is appropriate for you and/or your children.

  • Castor has a drink on a plane, and later, wine with dinner.
  • A bottle of champagne shows up at Sean's office, but is never opened.
  • Dietrich is a drug dealer and several people drink and smoke marijuana at his place. Later, he and Sean (acting like Castor) drink down some sort of drug and Sean gets "high" and then hallucinates a bit. After Sean mentions wanting to take off Castor's face, Dietrich says, "No more drugs for that man."
  • Sean has a bloody hole in his back and his dead son is also bloody after both have been shot.
  • A woman who's just been shot and thrown from a plane has a bloody face and side.
  • A pilot's blood splatters onto the steering wheel.
  • Several people who are shot in an airport hanger are bloody and/or have blood squirt from their wounds.
  • We see several shots of a laser making a bloody incision around both men's faces, and then of the flesh being pulled off the face. There are brief glimpses of the skinless faces (with one being in the reflection of eyeglasses), but there's enough here to gross out many people.
  • From this point on, the faces have been switched, but we'll identify the person who's on the inside, and not who they look like.
  • Sean is a bit bloody after a fight, but his defeated opponent is bloodier.
  • Some prisoners and guards are bloody after a prison break, and from a huge gun battle between Sean, Castor's associates and the FBI. The most extreme is one person who has blood squirting from a neck wound.
  • Pollux is bloody and has a pool of blood behind his head after falling to his death.
  • Eve sews up Sean's bloody wound (in his side) and is then seen with a man whose face is all torn up.
  • Both Sean and Castor are very bloody by the end of the movie.
  • Obviously Castor has both, and displays such tendencies (casually killing people, etc...) while inhabiting both bodies.
  • Sean occasionally has both while imitating Castor.
  • Jamie's date won't accept "no" for an answer and starts to sexually attack her.
  • While not designed to be frightening or tense in the traditional sense, many of the action oriented scenes come across that way.
  • Castor aims at and finally shoots Sean and his son with a sniper rifle.
  • A standoff occurs in a church and it, and the moments leading up to it, are tense.
  • Handguns/Shotguns/Machine guns: Used to threaten, wound, or kill many people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Knives: Used to stab people in several scenes.
  • Grenades: Fired at Sean by the F.B.I. that blow up his surroundings.
  • Phrases: "Bitch," "Loser," "Bastard," and "Jack off."
  • With the firing of guns and shooting people portrayed in such an artistic, almost fun way, impressionable kids might get the wrong idea about guns and shooting people.
  • Jamie has a nose ring and some wild eye makeup in one scene.
  • A scientist puts out her cigarette in Castor's arm to prove that he's in a coma and can't feel anything.
  • From this point on, the faces have been switched, but we'll identify the person who's on the inside, and not who they look like.
  • Sean steals a car by simply grabbing keys from a valet station, pressing the alarm button and finding the car.
  • Castor tells Jamie how to use a knife to defend herself (stabbing it in and then turning it sideways, etc..).
  • None.
  • While there's a great deal of action-oriented music, the part that's suspenseful only rates as mild.
  • None.
  • 30 "f" words (2 used sexually, as is the phrase "boning"), 14 "s" words, 1 slang term each for male and female genitals (the "d" and "p" words), 7 damns, 4 hells, 4 asses, and 8 uses of "God damn," 4 of "Oh God," 3 of "Jesus," and 1 use of "God" as exclamations.
  • Bordering more on harassment than sexuality, Castor grabs or feels several women's butts at various times during the movie.
  • When a flight attendant asks if she can get Castor anything, he mentions a "peach" and comments on how long he can eat one (some innuendo) and then says, "If I let you suck my tongue, would you be grateful?" She then goes over and does just that.
  • A computer program that Sean is given (and belonging to Castor) makes some sexual moaning sounds and then a female voice says that it's going to "blow you" and then pauses before saying "away" (It's a bomb program). Later, when the bomb is disarmed, the cartoon figure shows her cartoon breasts.
  • From this point on, the faces have been switched, but we'll identify the person who's on the inside, and not who they look like.
  • Sean stands nude in a prison, but the way the shot is framed no real nudity is seen.
  • Pollux tells Sean (thinking he's Castor) that the reason a guy picked a fight with him is that Castor had a "sex sandwich" with the guy's wife.
  • Castor mentions "I'll never get a hard-on again" when talking about life in the suburbs.
  • The camera lingers on Eve's rear end and Castor comments, "I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave."
  • Castor reads in Eve's diary that it's their (Sean and Eve's) date night and that they haven't "made love" in two months.
  • Castor leers at Jamie as he watches her standing in her underwear, but nothing's really seen, although he says (to himself), "The plot thickens" and "You've got something I want" (which turns out to be cigarettes and not something sexual).
  • Although only kissing is seen, it's implied that Castor (looking like Sean) and Eve have sex, and Castor later tells Sean, "I enjoyed boning your wife."
  • Sasha comes on to Sean in a bedroom, and gets on top of him, putting his hand on her clothed breast, but nothing else happens or is seen.
  • Castor asks Jamie if she has "any protection" and she says, "What do you mean, like condoms?" Instead, he pulls out a knife for her to use.
  • Castor (looking like himself and Sean) smokes in several scenes, and later (looking like Sean) encourages Jamie to smoke, which she does.
  • A scientist puts out her cigarette in Castor's arm to prove that he's in a coma and can't feel anything.
  • Sean's son dies in his arms in a flashback scene and ever since he, his wife and their daughter all deal with this loss in different ways, and there's still a great deal of tension there. He's distant and focuses on work instead of family, Eve is cold because of this, and Jamie is rebellious.
  • The violence and how it's much more devastating and harmful than portrayed in this film.
  • Sean is shot in the back and his son is killed from that same shot.
  • An undercover woman on a plane pulls out her gun, but Pollux hits her with his computer. Castor then holds his gun to the pilot's head to make him take off. Castor then shoots the woman and throws her body from the moving plane and onto the runway.
  • Castor shoots at Sean in his helicopter while Sean fires back and blows out one of the plane's engines. Castor then shoots the pilot (implied through blood splatter on the steering wheel).
  • Castor's plane crashes into a hangar and he and Pollux come out shooting and many people are shot and killed.
  • Castor tries to pull a knife on Sean, who kicks him several times. Castor then ends up in a wind tunnel where he's blown against the back wall and is knocked into a coma.
  • A scientist puts out her cigarette in Castor's arm to prove that he's in a coma and can't feel anything.
  • After Dietrich asks Sean how his (dead) son is, Sean grabs him by the throat, throws him to the floor and holds a gun to his head.
  • From this point on, the faces have been switched, but we'll identify the person who's on the inside, and not who they look like.
  • Sean takes a coat stand and smashes a mirror after seeing Castor's face on his body.
  • Sean and another prisoner fight with many punches thrown. After the man has been defeated, Sean, imitating Castor, continues to hit and kick him.
  • We see brief flashbacks where Castor pours a flammable liquid on several people who are bound and gagged and then sets them on fire.
  • Sean starts to strangle Castor (remember, they look like the other), until the prison guards come in and zap and beat him.
  • A guard steps on Sean's hand, causing him to fall from the cage bar he was holding onto.
  • In a plan to escape from prison, Sean attacks several guards who then beat him and take him to a room where another inmate is getting electric shock therapy. Sean and that inmate then attack the guards, many of which are shot and killed by the other inmate. Sean shoots a few of them (only to injure and not kill) and other prisoners then attack the guards. A bottle of acid is thrown into the air and shot, spraying the acid onto two guards. Other people fall to their death. Many shots are fired and many people are killed during the escape. Once outside, Sean is fired at from a helicopter.
  • Jamie's date won't accept "no" for an answer and starts to sexually attack her. Castor then comes outside, smashes the car window and pulls the punk from the car and proceeds to beat him up with punches and kicks.
  • There is a huge, long gun battle between Dietrich, Sasha, Sean and FBI agents where many people are shot and killed and Sean is nearly hit by several grenades that are fired at him. Pollux falls to his death and Castor shoots an F.B.I. agent in the head for making a comment about his brother.
  • Castor kills Sean's supervisor.
  • A big gun battle takes place inside a church where many more people are shot and killed. Castor then escapes and shoots more people dead and then gets into a gun battle with Sean while driving boats. Several boats explode, some coast guard guys are shot dead, and Sean and Castor then fight hand to hand with Castor going after Sean with a boat's anchor.
  • A man is stabbed with a harpoon, and another knifes his own face before being impaled by a harpoon.

  • Reviewed June 23, 1997

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