Television, Movie and Play Reviews

Reviewed by Cherie Jung


Starring: Nicholas Cage, John Travolta, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, and Dominque Swain.

Directed by: John Woo
Rating: "R" (violence, language)
Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Fans of director John Woo will remember fondly the action-adventure movie starring John Travolta (and Christian Slater) called "Broken Arrow." Some may also remember his "Hard Target" starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. And some of his die-hard fans will, no doubt, remember his Hong Kong movies featuring Chow Yun Fat, "A Better Tomorrow," "Hardboiled," and "The Killer."

Face/Off is akin to those Hong Kong films. Once the action begins, there is little let up, even for a breath of air.

Woo's movies have been described as "bullet ballets," which categorizes them nicely. It seems as everyone has his or her own personal arsenal and various characters always manage to show up on time to get in on the latest gun battle. Rarely do you see anyone without at least two guns blazing. All the while jumping, diving, and dodging the hailstorm of bullets. From time to time, people in the audience could be seen ducking and dodging the bullets that were flying on the screen and as one audience member put it after viewing the movie, "Now that's what bullets are for!"

The story is fairly basic. Woo is again exploring the duality of personality. Good versus bad. The good cop and the "bad" criminal are forced to change places, and in this case, faces and identities, as well. This character study is enhanced by the secondary characters. Travolta plays an FBI anti-terrorist operative. Nicholas Cage plays the terrorist. When their identities are switched, Travolta's wife, played by Joan Allen, becomes Cage's "wife." Cage's girlfriend becomes Travolta's.

Some found the surgical scenes, where Travolta and Cage physically change faces, to be disturbing. I found them to be rather fake looking (and sounding). However, if you are squeamish, you might want to watch out for this scene.

I thoroughly enjoyed the casting of John Travolta and Nicholas Cage as cop and terrorist. Also, Dominque Swain, as Cage's girlfriend was very convincing. However, Joan Allen as John Travolta's wife? She looked too old and tired. More like his mother than his wife. But I suppose that's a quibble on my part.

My main complaint was that the movie could have been and should have been about 20 minutes shorter. Despite the frenzied action, there was at least one chase scene too many. The climactic boat chase was so unnecessary as to be boring. The scene seemed to drag on and on and just when you thought it would end, it kept on going.

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