"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_faceoffFACE/OFF is a crazy one-time-only deal, a strange collision of people and movements that could only really exist in that specific place and time. Not before, and definitely not since. On that day the wave of late ’80s Hong Kong action cinema crashed and exploded against the rocky shores of Hollywood, spraying sideways and soaking Nic Cage and John Travolta, who happened to be standing there. It’s not the only American John Woo movie I like (we’ll always have HARD TARGET and BLACKJACK), but it’s the only one that seems like The Real John Woo. It takes that old Hong Kong John Woo we loved, with all his emotional sincerity and unhinged sense of stylized action, and combines him organically with big budget Hollywood, achieving a smooth balance where the Hollywood bullshit side doesn’t overpower the other one.

mp_faceoffThis movie has several big shootouts, an SUV vs. jet vs. building chase/gun battle, and an incredible high speed boat chase that includes some done-for-real crashes and explosions shot just as beautifully as they’d be now when carefully faked frame-by-frame in a computer. It also has some high quality acting by Nic Cage, of both the regular and mega varieties, as he plays the bad guy and the good guy pretending to be the bad guy and especially when he’s playing the good guy inside the bad guy trying to explain that he’s really the good guy. And it has big absurd sci-fi concepts made even more far-fetched by Woo changing a futuristic sci-fi script to present day 1997. But despite all this Woo’s main interest is in the characters, their relationships and unexpected turns, the bad things the hero does and the good ones the villain does.

Holy shit, this movie really does have everything, doesn’t it? If you start naming random things most of them will be in it. Margaret Cho as a government agent? Yes.  CCH Pounder burned alive? Check. Little bowl-cutted moppet shot dead on a merry-go-round? Yep. Nic Cage dressed as a priest doing Mick Jagger poses at the L.A. Convention Center? You bet. How ’bout him just beating the shit out of one of the kids from That ’70s Show? You got it, pal. Joe Bob Briggs cameo? Uh huh. Barefoot waterskiing in a suit and tie? Of course.

In the beginning it’s Travolta vs. Cage. Travolta plays Sean Archer, covert counter-terrorism task force supercop. Cage is Castor Troy, insane terrorist-for-hire who killed Archer’s son six years ago and now is dressed as a priest and groping choir girls shortly after planting a bomb. Soon Castor ends up in a coma and the authorities decide that the only way to find out where the bomb is before it goes off is to transplant Castor’s face onto Sean and have him go undercover in prison with Castor’s awkward weapons-designer brother Pollux (Allesandro Nivola). Good plan, right? Unfortunately Castor wakes up, forces the doctors to give him Sean’s face (I mean, it was just sitting there) and kills everybody who knows about the operation.

So I guess come to think of it this is John Woo’s version of one of those body switching comedies like FREAKY FRIDAY or LIKE FATHER LIKE SON. The terrorist is in the cop’s body, pretending he’s trying to bust himself, having fun sexing up his enemy’s wife (Joan Allen) complete with a huge but not quite DESPERADO number of candles. (Romantic dudes in movies always light like 150 candles before fucking.) He also pays more attention to Archer’s daughter, although in a sleazy uncle kind of way, smoking with her, giving her a butterfly knife, beating up the boy (Danny Masterson) who doesn’t understand that no means no. That last one seems a little hypocritical considering how many women Castor sexually harasses in this movie, but I guess in his defense they do seem to succumb to his evil charms, not actively fight him off like this girl does to this kid.

Meanwhile Archer is a cop in a criminal’s body, so he gets to do fun stuff like rot away in a high tech prison, talk to Thomas Jane, etc. Once he gets out his only possibility really is to pretend he’s Castor Troy and go gunning for fake Sean Archer. He teams up with the director of THE NOTEBOOK and with Gina Gershon reprising her RED HEAT/OUT FOR JUSTICE role of Tough But Nice Girl Affiliated With Villain Who Doesn’t Deserve the Treatment She Receives From the Cop Protagonist. She’s the real Castor Troy’s girlfriend, but not close enough for him to tell her about the body switch. So Archer-as-Troy has to improve their relationship just as Troy-as-Archer is improving his marriage.

There’s always this tension like Archer might be found out while he’s undercover, and Pollux Troy keeps giving him suspicious looks. But I don’t really get that because he’s not Darkman, his skin’s not gonna melt soon. Is there really some danger of Pollux thinking “My brother’s been acting strange since he woke up out of his coma. I bet he’s not my brother at all but in fact a cop whose had my brother’s face transplanted over a high tech mask, had his body and hair surgically altered and a microchip implanted in his vocal chords to re-create his voice”? No, I don’t think he’s gonna think of that one. So the implausibility of the whole thing makes the secret more plausible.

Alot of this is about putting people in awkward situations. Archer-as-Castor has to protect the kid he threatened to get taken away from Gershon. Troy-as-Archer has to visit the grave of the son he murdered, or accept condolences for the deaths of people he killed. Also a doctor at the end has to talk to Archer about his original body’s bullet scar without saying “I have no idea what you’re talking about – remember, the original doctor who did the surgery got burned alive along with your best friend Tito.”

So it’s larger-than-life characters shrunk down to regular life-size by being given human flaws and strengths. The terrorist pays more attention to Archer’s wife and daughter than he does, but the cop pays more attention to Troy’s girlfriend and son than he does. (In fact, the real terrorist doesn’t know it’s his son, only the impostor knows). Troy gets colleagues killed but he’s way more fun around the office. They switch bodies, lives and sons. They’re the same! Like a John Woo movie.

That might not be enough substance to power a low budget drama, but combined with top notch (and comprehensible, which was expected back then) action and style it’s pretty potent. Woo does all those things people started making fun of him for: double-pistoled side leaps, Mexican standoffs, birds (this time it’s pigeons and seagulls) flying during a shootout in a church, slow motion hero shots of dudes with sunglasses and long black coats blowing around in the wind, nice suits for all men. It’s probly Woo’s nicest looking photography because it’s the look he was using at his peak but when he could afford better lighting and film stock.

Other people were imitating his style back then, but nobody could fake his tastes. I don’t think another director would’ve insisted on Joan Allen to play the wife, or if they did I don’t think they would’ve done a leering shot of her butt. Or what about the scene where Gina Gershon’s son is caught in the middle of a gunfight and the best Gershon and Nick Cassavetes can come up with to protect him is to put headphones on him, so he watches a bloodbath while listening to a cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”? I’m not sure it’ll cut down on the therapy he’ll need in later years, but it does make for a distinctive shootout.

mega-faceoffThen of course there’s the unmistakable Nic Cage touch. This is probly in my top 5 favorite unCaged performances under BAD LIEUTENANT, MATCHSTICK MEN and VAMPIRE’S KISS because he does some really emotional scenes as Archer but also gets to go full-on Mega for Castor Troy, and even gets to be Archer trying to go Mega to pass himself off as Troy. He’s a cool iconic character because he has two beautiful gold and black guns with dragons on the handles, and I’m guessing it was Cage’s idea that the case he keeps them in is always stocked with a pack of Chiclets.

Travolta is also fun in the movie, going mega because he’s imitating Cage. I’m sure they worked together to come up with how the character should act, but it’s the Cage characteristics that are most noticeable. When Travolta takes off his coat, carefully folds it up while prancing around as a pre-bomb-defusing ritual you definitely gotta be reminded of Cage. I wish Travolta would’ve tried some of those silent film monster facial expressions though, that would’ve been funny.

Two random things that make me laugh in this movie:

1. At the end the daughter, whose father doesn’t really understand her or pay enough attention to her, switches back to normal hair and makeup, as if she now agrees with the blaming-the-victim statement  “you dress up like it’s Halloween and ghouls will try to get down your pants.” What are you doing there, John Woo?

2. It seems to me like they really don’t need to do the hair at the same time as the facial surgery. I mean, I know they’re in a hurry, but I just think it would be better to have a stylist take care of hair dos after the surgery is complete.

FACE/OFF is as schizophrenic and mixed up as its characters. It’s a silly action movie but also a 138 minute straight-faced melodrama. It expects its audience to care about adult relationships and emotions but also to accept this ridiculous bodyswitching technology and superhuman gun and stunt skills. I can see why it might be too crazy for some people, but for me it’s just right. The act of making FACE/OFF probly blew out all of Woo’s filmmaking fuses, but at least we got this one last distinctive John Woo movie.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 at 2:08 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

224 Responses to “Face/Off”

  1. Is this the perfect time to ask for a Hard Target re-review then? You say it’s one of your favourite US Woo’s, but your old Hard Target review is really short and calls the film moronic, would like to read what your thoughts on it now are.

    Anyway, I totally agree with you about this being the a kind of perfect storm situation, it’s everything fantastic and ridiculous about John Woo as well as combining the excesses of 90s Hong Kong and Hollywood action films plus Cage and Travolta at their peak mega acting years. If films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Aliens are the height of quality blockbuster cinema, Face/Off is definitely the height of dumb blockbuster cinema, and I don’t mean that in a backhanded way, it’s a gloriously ridiculous plot and awesome because of it.

  2. I don’t know why, but for any reason this movie never really worked for me. Since it came out on video my friends are telling me how fucking awesome this is, but I tried to watch it twice and was always bored to death. Maybe I’m just a bad person.

  3. I think my favorite moment in the movie is when Cage does that little “Ain’t I a stinker?” shrug after throwing the stewardess off the plane. He just looks like he’s having a blast being evil, and it’s kind of a bummer that he gets stuck playing John Travolta for the rest of the movie.

    Great movie, though. The perfect blend of ridiculousness and earnestness. I love how in the middle, after accepting all of this other crazy sci-fi shit for a movie set in 1997, the movie is then like, “Oh yeah, and there’s also a prison on an oil rig where everybody wears magnetic moon boots.” That’s right up there with Lindsay Lohan’s robotic hand in I KNOW WHO KILLED ME: an extra layer of preposterousness in a movie you didn’t think could bear it.

  4. Face Off is a strange case because the plot is 100% ridiculous, but if you can get past that it’s a pretty awesome movie

    also I love the scene with Dominique Swain in her panties

  5. it’s also funny that Vern would review this movie because literally just an hour and a half ago I was eating a peach and thinking of Cage’s “peach, I could eat a peach for hours” line

  6. also one last thing, isn’t John Woo actually a Christian? (might explain the “you dress up like it’s Halloween and ghouls will try to get down your pants.” thing) how many Christian filmmakers do you know what make a kickass action movie like Face Off and not some Kirk Cameron piece of crap? heck as a matter of fact how many mainstream Christian filmmakers are out there at all? (other than Catholics like Martin Scorsese)

  7. *how many Christian filmmakers do you know would make a kickass action movie like Face Off and not some Kirk Cameron piece of crap?

  8. I loved this movie when it came out. However, it’s much harder for me now. And I’ll give you three words “Obvious Stunt Doubles” It’s ridiculous. By the end of the movie John Woo isn’t even pretending they’re Travolta and Cage. The boat blows up, they go flying in slow motion and it’s clear as day that neither guy is Cage or Travolta. Watch the gunfights again, anytime something cool happens it’s clearly neither Cage or Travolta. Just completely kills the action sequences for me now.

    Also, if Vern is really going to do a review of Hard Target, he needs to track down the un-cut version. The gun battles at the end in the theatrical release are messed up. For instance, his uncle gets shot in one leg and the wound switches to the other leg. It’s much crazier in the uncut version. John Woo needs to make a really huge movie so somebody puts that on a proper DVD. Better yet, if he can track down the work print, the last action sequence is even way better. How? Because their temp score is from Aliens. Yeah, it’s bad ass.

  9. A masterpiece. I would say, no question, one of the greatest of all American action films.

    Kevin Smith told me this great story once that he’d tried to use a version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” in CHASING AMY and the song’s owners had turned them down flat, saying they didn’t approve of the film’s content. Then, a few months later, he goes to see FACE / OFF and watches people getting mowed down and blown away left and right to the tune of “Over The Rainbow”. He was like, “Content my ass!!!”

    Cage and Travolta both accomplish the rather amazing feat of, once they’ve changed faces, making you somehow think of them as still being in those roles; for instance, you mentally find yourself thinking, “Wow, Cage is really good in that scene with Dominique Swain” and then you catch yourself and go, NO, that’s Travolta, he’s just PLAYING Cage….

    Also, the guy who played The Zodiac is in the background of the prison scenes as a guard. When I rewatched it last year I was astonished to recognize him. And he’s Marge’s husband in FARGO! No wonder he looked so familiar in ZODIAC. He’s been around and doing good work for a while.

  10. i haven’t watched this in about 10 years. and hadn’t really even considered breaking that streak until this review.
    damnit Vern.

  11. i also can’t each a peach without thinking of this movie. EVER. it’s fucked, it really latched onto my brain that way. fuckin Cage.

  12. The rough cut of HARD TARGET (especially the final shootout scored to “Futile Escape”) is truly awesome. That used to be on YOUTUBE, I gotta go check to see if it’s still there.

    Griff: There are actually a lot of filmmakers who’d probably consider themselves Christians; obviously the Catholics like Brian De Palma, Kevin Smith, Coppola, Mel Gibson (duh), George Romero and Scorsese, but also Paul Schrader, Terrence Malick, Clint Eastwood, Wes Craven, Ron Howard, Denzel Washington, John Carpenter…It’s pretty unfortunate how the label has been so hijacked by the evangelicals and fundamentalists. And Woo actually IS a Catholic, like Scorsese.

  13. and Lawrence is right about the obvious stunt doubles. the boat crash is right up there with the Van Damme looking Terminator snatching John Conner from his dirt bike before the truck collides with him.

  14. that’s very interesting CC, unfortunately living in the south you either subscribe to the conservative view of Christianity or you’re “not a real Christian” and thus feel out of place, like me

  15. CJ – I can see why this movie wouldn’t work for some people. Personally I thought it was great over-the-top fun for the most part.

    I agree with Vern on much of this, but there’s two bits that he liked and I didn’t. Weirdly, for a John Woo movie, the two bits I DIDN’T like were the opening and closing action sequences. There’s an incredibly long-seeming airport sequence near the start, where Nic Cage first gets trapped. Practically the whole thing seemed to be filmed in slow-mo and it was weirdly dull for a John Woo movie. The boat chase at the end, as well, I’m not quite sure what they’re going for there – chaotic-awesome perhaps? – but whatever it is, I don’t think it works.

    There’s lots of other smaller action moments that have a much less “set-piece” quality to them and therefore work far better IMO. The film is something of a throwback to a more innocent time when slo-mo, and not shakycam, was the #1 technique that action filmmakers would abuse. I know it’s tempting to overlook flaws like excessive slow-mo, considering the amount of nostalgia there is for the days when action sequences actually had to be visible and not obscured by lens-flare and shakycam, but I kinda feel like Vern might have let said nostalgia cloud his judgement a bit here and blind him to a few common late-Woo flaws. (Sorry Vern, you know I love ya, just telling it like I see it.)

    Anyway, apart from two rather unthrilling action sequences, this one gets my seal of approval. Very, very fun dumb movie, and Travolta and Cage both do its absurdity justice.

  16. you also have to appreciate the irony that a Christian filmmaker (John Carpenter) gave us the slasher genre

  17. Some ridiculous shit from this movie that I remember:

    That weird fingers-over-the-face gesture the Archer family uses.

    The little mop-top kid seems too old to be acting the way he does (unless he was supposed to be autistic and I missed it).

    The scene where Margaret Cho kicks the crap out of a guy (speaking of obvious stunt doubles).

    Paraphrased – Nicholas Cage, to Stewardess: “Hey, suck my tongue!” Stewardess: “Ok!”

  18. Right on, Vern, GoodBadGroovy, CC, Mr. Majestyk, and Griff. CJ, you’re a bad person.

    Someone I trust with film analysis wrote:
    **John Woo’s best film is a seminal action picture that, for me, has proven infinitely re-watchable. Every shot of every scene contributes to the theme of the paradoxically simultaneous capacity for and presence of good & evil within each person. Every character sustains this motif in the midst of an exhilarating story and a series of exciting shootouts. An efficient and compelling narrative, despite a couple of leaps in connecting point A to point B, the sum of the parts is as good as any of the outstanding action scenes. **

    “Every shot of every scene contributes. . .” — Concerning that “motif,” anyone notice the juxtaposition (It’s barely there; look closely.) at the convention center in the beginning of the movie when both the Christian choir (GOOD) and the American Bar Association (EVIL) occupy the same space? See? Get it? It’s just like how GOOD & EVIL compete for the same space within individuals and shit. How’s your mind, blown?

    Of all the supposed stupidity & ridiculousness in Face//Off, only one thing bothers me: How does Cage-Archer get all the way to land after he jumps from the rig-prison? The editor couldn’t have been comfortable cutting out all that swimming.

    Hell yeah, I remember I went to see this the day after I lost my virginity. Don’t know why that’s important, but anyway I remember my first time with Face//Off as vividly & warmly as I remember my first time inside the fair sex, so yeah it’s safe to say I have a high opinion of this movie.

    The goddamn box office punk wouldn’t let me see an R-rated film since I was 14 (Most cinema employees had never been such hardasses, in my experience, even though I have the babyface.), so I of course bought a ticket for The 5th Element instead and then just snuck into Face//Off once inside, because I’m a badass obviously.
    My knowledge of Woo & Hong Kong cinema wasn’t great back then, since it was tough to get decent VHSs of the good stuff, you know, for a punk living on $20 a pop for mowing the neighbors’ lawns. That might be why I fell completely in love with “all those things people started making fun of [Woo] for: double-pistoled side leaps, Mexican standoffs, birds (this time it’s pigeons and seagulls) flying during a shootout in a church, slow motion hero shots of dudes with sunglasses and long black coats blowing around in the wind, nice suits for all men.” But, hey, I can still watch this shit today & love it as much as ever.

    I try not to gush too often. I save it for a very select few films and Beyonces, but. . . DAMN I LOVE FACE//OFF!

  19. A review I read about this pointed out something that’s cool: the movie has an opening that would be a pretty acceptable climax for any other action movie. Maybe that was an intentional Bond movie homage? I also like how they work the title into Dialogue with Sean as Castor on drugs saying he wants “To take his face…off…!”

    Griff- “it’s also funny that Vern would review this movie because literally just an hour and a half ago I was eating a peach and thinking of Cage’s “peach, I could eat a peach for hours” line”
    And on a board I go to, Face/Off came up earlier today, specifically talking about Cage’s role, and I said “Well, Cage has always been a Mega Acting Savant”, which is a reference only I would have gotten.

    Vern-“There’s always this tension like Archer might be found out while he’s undercover, and Pollux Troy keeps giving him suspicious looks. But I don’t really get that because he’s not Darkman, his skin’s not gonna melt soon. ”
    Maybe Pollux was actually wondering if Castor had agreed to a deal with the Feds, to bring down all the guys he associates with who are still at large?

  20. Lawrence/DNA – Give me supposed “obvious” stunt doubles any day of the week over fucking CGI.

  21. Yeah, dudes, stop complaining about stunt doubles. You’re gonna ruin it for everyone b/c then filmatists are gonna think that Face//Off-style action is unacceptable for some bizarre reason.

    Granted, John Woo did some fine, fine work with CGI in Red Cliff, which I highly recommend for a one-time viewing. IT’S NO FACE//OFF, THOUGH. THEN AGAIN, WHAT IS?

  22. Mouth – Face/off is.

    (Somebody had to say it.)

  23. Higharolla Kockamamie

    September 1st, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I remember watching Travolta on Inside the Actor’s Studio talking about Face/Off and how challenging it was to unCage himself, and found it hard to become bigger than life. Cage himself said in his episode that when he was doing his number in the priest outfit Travolta said “Oh, we’re doing that kind of acting.” John went on to talk about discussing life as art with Mr. Cage, and their mutual taste for the finer things in life, leading Cage to excitedly ask “John, do you ever wake up and find yourself in the mood for buying a fine piece of glass?” The episode is probably up on youtube or one of those sites, and it’s a great one if only for Travolta’s impression of Cage.

  24. RRA – absolutely. just gives me a chuckle sometimes, but remains still badass

  25. An 80s Action Hero

    September 1st, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    I had a blast with this film back in tha day, as it was my first big screen John Woo film, and compared to Mission Impossible 2, was a masterpiece!

    Have to agree with Good Bad Groovy, ‘Hard Target’ is worth a Vern RE-review, it’s probably my favourite (Hollywood) Woo film, as it had a first class badass turn from Lance Henrikson, and Arnold ‘Darkman III: Die Darkman Die’ Vosloo as Pik Van Cleef, surely an honest to god homage to OGBadass Lee Van, and a great 90s action adaptation of Connell’s ‘The Most Dangerous Game’…but with added Van Damme leg kicks!

  26. An 80s Action Hero

    September 1st, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Can I add the actors height as the one element that might have tipped off the respective parties to the fake Troy/Archer dynamics. Cage is 6ft, whilst Travolta is down as 6ft 2in. That’s gotta be noticable!

    Also, Gina Gershon was hot in this. That is all.

  27. “I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave”

  28. Can someone explain to me the bit where all the Archer’s are always passing thier hands over each others’ faces? I’ve seen this movie many times and I really love it, but that I do not get.

  29. This is one of those movies that, when I checked your site today, I was like “What? Vern hasn’t reviewed this yet?” and then was so glad you finally did! This was one of the first R-rated movies I saw in the theater along with “The Rock,” which may be why I associate Nicholas Cage with my becoming a man.

  30. Uhm, the “Van Damme looking Terminator” who lifts John Conner off the dirtbike? Was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    The obvious stunt double shot in that sequence is the guy doing the motorcycle jump into the canal (an early example of CGI wire removal, by the way). He’s about ten years younger and 2 inches shorter then Arnold.

    The most laughable stunt double I’ve noticed lately is the scene where Vincent Hanna bursts into the hotel room and fights Hugh Benny in HEAT. How does Al Pacino beat up Henry Rollins? By letting a stuntman who looks like Elvis take over. And all Hanna does is run in, jump off the couch, and get pushed away by Rollins! It’s not like he gets shot at or hit with a chair or anything. C’mon, don’t tell me Pacino couldn’t have done that.

  31. I never saw this, as I am allergic to John Travolta, but as a recently converted fan of Cage-ist Mega-Acting, I will probably have to suck it up and find out what makes everyone love this movie. I just remember seeing commercials for it and not believing that there could be a real movie with this premise. But the paragraph list of random things included in this movie has convinced me it’s something I need to see, even if it means dealing with Travolta.

  32. No, wait… Let me rephrase that. If I were to LET, you SUCK, my TONGUE… Would you be grateful?

  33. I was hoping that when Travolta walks in his house (in the sun-bleached ending) to greet his family, he’d open his mouth and Cage’s voice would come out: “Uh, I decided to keep the voice…”

  34. This movie is truly off the fucking chain. My roommate for a while had a copy of the DVD, and when he found out I was watching it (he knew I was kind of a movie snob) he was like, “Really?” He didn’t even think it was that good, but he’s dead fucking wrong. The action is a million times better than pretty much any action in any other movie since The Matrix, and that boat explosion at the end is badass. I generally like Travolta better in the movie, but that’s really only because he gets to play Nicolas Cage the whole time.

  35. Remember when this was the 1st truly great American John Woo movie and held limitless promise of things to come? It seemed like things were going better, he ditched Travolta for Cage, was going to be given free reign… then Tom Cruise exploded in a fireball of computerized doves.

    And can anyone please tell me if he’s trying to remake THE KILLER or THE KILLER ELITE? It’s starting to get confusing

    Man, FACE/OFF really only could have happened in 1997, because 1997 was pretty much a great year for everything across the board. Now I’m getting all nostalgic.

  36. @ W.S.

    I made my girlfriend watch this and she thought the Fingers over the Face thing was so funny, so of course I do it to her all the time now just to fuck with her. It’s a really weird thing.

  37. FUCK YES!! I’ve been waiting for this review for about 4 years now Vern and as I have always suspected it is a classic. Now all you need to do is review Con Air and The Rock to recreate the Summer of ’97 for me.

  38. Speaking of Pacino and stunt-doubles, I was watching the Insomnia remake for the first time in years the other day and the appalling phoniness of his stunt-double took my right out of the movie during the (admittedly stil cool) log sequence.

  39. Yes! This was one of the most fun films of 1997. I saw it and then immediately went next door to see CONTACT. I think it still holds up pretty well; if anything, we’re MORE likely now to excuse the ridiculous plot.

    Mouth: I was going to mention the oil platform thing if somebody else didn’t. That was the only thing that really annoyed me. I could wrap my mind around the rest of the crazy concepts, but that swim would’ve been impossible.

    Now I just like to think he happened to find the Nazi submarine from RAIDERS and somehow rode it to shore like Indy did.

  40. RRA-How about the Burly Brawl from The Matrix Reloaded. That has to be the worst of both worlds.

  41. Just found the site, Vern, and you hit me with a review of one of my favorite action movies of the 90s.

    Is it as good as John Woo’s HK best? No. But is it the best John Woo American movie? Absolutely! It’s the closest Woo got to his manic, poetic best in our shores.

    And the “hands over the face” thing was supposed to be a family thing the Archer had (like their way of saying “I love you”). It’s something Woo and his people came up with. Not that it made much sense then!

  42. Nothing really to add, but I can’t let the opportunity go by without adding my voice to chorus, love this film.
    Also, Hard Target? Yes please. I’ll have to look up the review that’s already done, but yeah, revisit it Vern, and The Rock and Con Air, and City On Fire, just for something different.
    Whenever I thin of Mega Acting, I think of this movie.

  43. I loved this movie when it came out. Watched it within the last year and found it still totally holds up. The reason? You become involved with the way each character relates to their enemy’s world. I would only disagree with Vern that YES, this WOULD make a legitimate 138 minute drama.

    We need more dramas, or any genre, that explore the realistic consequences of a fantasy idea. The “what if” syndrome. Fuck, real people should learn to understand the people they fear too.

    The stunt doubles just made me laugh. Yeah, he could have pulled the camera back a little more, but still I’d rather see someone do it for real than the real actor do it fake.

    I’ll read a new Hard Target review, and probably rewatch that someday, but what I really want is a Vern review of The Rock. Can Vern forgive the Bay and love the Cage?

  44. Speaking of Hard Target, when will we get a review of it? I would love to read your toughts on that one.

  45. So, I’d be alone in liking Mission Impossible: II?

    It’s the only action film I know where the hero is some guy’s hair. Hair rock climbing, hair jumping out of buildings, hair driving motorcycle through fire. Wow.

    It’s got a wildly misogynistic script by Robert Towne, and a great bad guy.

    And I like how earth’s gravity gets weaker and weaker as the film goes on.

    What’s not to like?

  46. The fingers-over-the-face thing is always one of the weirdest moments in what is a weird moment-filled movie. It’s almost cult-like, and I’m surprised that Vern didn’t do an entire paragraph about an Archer family reunion where everyone walks up to each other and runs their fingers over their relatives’ faces. Just imagine the comedic possibilities of Grandma Archer greeting the new Archer boy child just after eating a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw.

    I hope I’m not alone in thinking the ending would have been more perfect if Archer had stayed in Troy’s body, but since it is, as some have pointed out, a melodrama in an action film disguise, you have to have the over-the-top, mega-happy ending with him getting his body and his family back. My favorite part of that scene, besides the sister inducting him into the family cult, is when he introduces the son and throws his wife a sheepish look and all she does is nod and blubber. “Hey, I brought this kid home to take the place of my son. Is that okay?” It’s given the same weight that bringing home a stray puppy would get. And then the new sis leads him off to show him his new room, probably complete with a closet full of a dead boy’s clothes. All’s well that ends…in a really strange manner.

  47. “Weeeeeeee, what a predicament!”

    “No more drugs for that man.”

    “Oohwee, you good lookin’!”

    All helpful phrases.

  48. There was a time when I was excited to see directors like John Woo come to America and make big budget films. Now, I completely hate it. They come to America and are completely neutered by the Hollywood system. Face/Off is the last real John Woo action movie that has his complete stamp on it, and his only really worthwhile American movie. It is crazy and completely implausible but I love this movie. It’s really disappointing how Hollywood basically chewed him up and spit him right back out. I’m still holding out hope that we will get one more crazy action movie from him.

  49. And “Die. Please die.”

  50. Okay, I’ll review all those. I got some other things to get to first and I really want to revisit the Woo Hong Kong stuff. But at some point, yes, I would love to re-watch Hard Target, MI Part 2, The Rock and Con Air (although I doubt I’ll hate it much less than I did years ago).

    I forgot to mention the weirdness of the ending and how he gets to take Castor Troy’s son. It makes more sense on a poetic level than on a makes-sense-at-all level. On the DVD there’s an alternate ending where it’s implied that he might actually be Castor Troy, or that he’s not sure which one he is, and it’s left ambiguous. I thought it was kind of dumb. Woo seems to prefer it but changed it when nobody else seemed to understand what he was going for.

  51. Vaguely related, back when Swordfish came out, the Cork Examiner review was pretty much a full page picture of Travolta and the headline FECK/OFF.

  52. I kinda liked MI:2 on a “so bad it’s good” way. It had good cinematography, a great soundtrack, it was pretty, it was ridiculous but well-made. Can’t agree about the villain though, I thought Dougray Scott was utterly wasted in it.

    The Rock is amazingly boring for what it is, and Con Air is just bad without having that “so bad it’s good” quality to it.

  53. I always found The Rock pretty boring too, although I just love the twist in the end, when Ed Harris just gives up after he didn’t get what he want. (Too bad the movie doesn’t just end there. Yes, it would be anticlimactic, but at least it would be an original ending. :D)
    But I gotta say that I really like Con Air. It doesn’t take itself too serious, without rubbing its ridiculousness constantly in the face of the audience and has one of the most interesting action movie casts of the 90’s! (Nic Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, Dave Chappelle, M.C. Gainey and I’m sure I forgot one or two names.) It’s also the favourite action movie of my mother. She just loves all the stuff with the bunny.

  54. As much as I am a big JW fan, my favourite scene from Face/Off was a non action scene. Just before the funeral of Archer’s boss, there is a scene between Travoltal and Joan Allen where he asks where the daughter is, which is perfectly mirrored with Cage asking Gina Gershon where her son is.
    It’s a clever little scene and has the best music of the whole film. I hated the boat chase at the end because it was so convoluted and reminded me too much of the end of Patriot Games – oh, guess what inanimate object is going to impale the badguy?

  55. If you can’t hunt down (ha!) the workprint of HARD TARGET, the European DVD is the next best thing. It doesn’t have the interesting and strange stuff they cut (animal hunting footage when Henriksen plays the piano, the sex scene etc.), but it does restore about 95% of the violence they cut for the U.S. version. Owning that version, I’d say the ending shootout is one of the Woo’s best, behind HARD BOILED and THE KILLER. Too bad the rest of the movie isn’t that great. Although Lance Henriksen is always fun to watch.

    But yeah, FACE/OFF is the best Hollywood film Woo has made. It has just the perfect amount of great action, melodrama, violence, crazy fun characters and a brilliant cast. BROKEN ARROW is a passable action flick but borderlines on generic, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 is Woo being forced to the dance the Cruise tune and is shackled with the PG-13 rating, WINDTALKERS is surprisingly good (in the Director’s Cut version) but not any sort of masterpiece as far as war movies go. And PAYCHECK… I have no idea what the heck Woo was thinking with that.

  56. When I was in junior high/high school I thought Con Air and The Rock and MI:2 were all badass, but of course I haven’t revisited any of them in years because I’m smarter now.

  57. The theatrical cut of Windtalkers is just okay, but the director’s cut–while still a pretty fundamentally flawed and poorly written movie–is absolutely worth watching and quite interesting. It makes me very eager to see the Red Cliff (full Chinese version, thank you); because the overwhelming impression I get from the Director’s cut of Windtalkers is what an utterly Chinese film it is, how much it’s American culture and history seen through a foreign style and sensibility. Like an American film about the Blitz, or something.

  58. John Travolta, just terrible. Not an action star. The fattest pilot in Broken Arrow, the fattest junkie in Pulp Fiction, the fattest angel in Michael and the fattest alien in Battlefield Earth.

  59. No, sorry, Forest Whitacker has that honour in Battlefield Earth.
    (Apart from that I’m totally against hating actors because of their weight. There are millions of other reasons to dislike John Travolta!)

  60. Line I will use until I die (I think it will go over well in a nursing home):

    “No more drugs. For that man.”

    Also features Mr. Cage’s second hyper-sexed on-screen peach-eating reference, after WILD AT HEART’s “take a bite of peach” line. (“Ooh, baby, you’re such a bad boy.” “Well now, that’s what she said.” Come to think of it, that’s the first time I recall the line ‘that’s what she said,’ except it really WAS what she said. At least, according to the flashback. So I guess the joke came later.)

    Also must admit to, in high school, seeing this and SCHINDLER’S LIST in the same week and at the time having thought way more about the moral complexities of FACE/OFF, while having found Spielberg’s kind of overwrought and shallow…


  61. I would argue that, while Face/Off is an all-around better movie, the action scenes in Hard Target are actually better and closer to Woo’s original Hong Kong work than any of his other American movies.

    Con Air – I’ve always thought this movie would have been a classic if it had managed to have something resembling coherent action scenes…It’s still pretty funny and I think it might have Cage’s most subtly weird performance; I don’t know how to describe it except to say that it’s like some bizarre commentary on/parody/celebration of the concept of “the hero”.

  62. Dougray Scott wasted in MI:II?

    “But Hugh, I am. Gagging. For. It.”

    “You know, that was the hardest part about having to portray you, grinning like an idiot every fifteen minutes.”

    No way Cruise would have the confidence to allow a line like that anymore.

  63. Vern, that ending you describe sounds like crap. I was thinking more of a poetic ending where Archer ends up with Troy’s face, but it’s still him underneath. Imagine having to wake up every morning and look into the face of the man who killed your son and caused the deaths of countless innocent victims, including some friends and coworkers.

    This situation benefits Joan Allen’s character because Nic Cage actually looks attractive (Dare I say sexy? Nah, won’t go that far.) in the movie. They could even keep the replacement kid part, too. (I’m not your father, but I look like your father, who I killed.)

  64. Anybody know anything about Woo’s religious beliefs? I recall a lot of Christian imagery in his movies, but I’m not sure of the context.

    Of course, there is Tom Cruise striking the Jesus pose while climbing the mountain in the beginning of MI:2. I could never tell if Woo was being flip, or if he was genuinely trying to establish his hero as some sort of Christ figure for some reason.

    I’m guessing he’s being tongue-in-cheek, because there’s that part in FACE/OFF, right before the church shootout, where Travolta mockingly strikes the crucifixion pose. Also, I remember there’s that part in WINDTALKERS where Cage draws a picture of a church, then gets angry at the picture and punches it.

    Also, unrelated, but I’ve started a project on my blog (that I may give up due to laziness) where I go through an action scene (or, more likely, a segment of an action scene) from a movie shot by shot to explain why it does or doesn’t work. FACE/OFF seems like a good contender (i.e. I like it and its in my DVD collection), but what scene or moment would I choose? The church shootout is cool, but also in slo-mo if I remember, which might defeat the point. Maybe the boat chase at the end? Or the plane chase at the start? What does everyone consider the best constructed action sequence in the film?

  65. Like Hard Target, this movie works on absolutely every level.

    Jesus, the boat crash at the end is nuts. I still can’t figure out how they didn’t launch those two stuntmen into certain death.

    “I could eat a peach for hours”

  66. Just the right amount of crazyness, if you ask me. I remember first seeing this movie in theaters, and thinking to myself, “that technology doesn’t exist,” but by the end of the film, after taking in two hours of mega acting, birds flying and date rapist demolishing, the movie had finally won me over.

  67. You are probably right CJ Holden. I just get rubbed up the wrong way by Travolta. And Cage for that matter. Did have a giggle when I watched this years back. Not only did they swap heads, they stiched Travolta’s moobs and back fat onto Cage.

    Sorry, back on the weight gags again.

  68. Woo went to a Lutheran school in Hong Kong, and he’s mentioned that on commentary tracks as his religious affiliation. One reason I love his films is how that has seemed to influence his sense of the conflict of good and evil, which I’d guess is what attracted him to making Face/Off because he loves exploring how the good cop is tempted to act villianous to fight the villian, and how the villian is sometimes drawn to be heroic. I doubt the sci-fi elements were important to him, they just served as a really good setup for his favorite themes. I mean, it’s like in A Better Tomorrow 2, where we all want to see Chow-Yun Fat come back but he died in the first one, so Woo introduces his identical twin brother, who puts on the same duster coat and sunglasses. If you can’t suspend your sense of what is credulous in real life as being an imortant element in making a good film, I can see why you wouldn’t like Woo’s style. But if you can, then you don’t focus on the unbelievable coincidences in his movies, and can enjoy the unparalleled beauty of Woo action, and the sincere intensity of the emotional relationships.
    I’m so happy Vern’s planning on going back to Woo’s Hong Kong stuff, as movies where Woo wrote the script always let his favorite themes shine through the brightest. That said, I still think that especially MI:2 is underrated by the internet. Sure, it’s hard to forget you’re watching TOM CRUISE, but with such a huge budget to play with, it’s amazing to see Woo get to do things like the zipline inside the skyscraper. For me, the Woo-ness defeats the Hollywood-ness. I think even Paycheck is interesting as an experiment in Woo trying to capture a different tone than he usually does. Woo has said in interviews for Red Cliff that he is planning to keep making films in China to help bring up young talent, so who knows, maybe there’ll be another Woo Hong Kong gangster film someday.

  69. Meh. I’ll give it a try.

  70. The workprint/”sneak preview” version of HARD TARGET might possibly be Woo’s best US work, if it wasn’t for the shorter confrontation between Van Damme and Henriksen. Whoever decided to add more of that for the final release was right on; a combo of their final fight w/the workprint shootouts would make it the best kind of over-the-top. Otherwise, the international cut (which is the studio cut before the MPAA had their way with it — still missing the ear bit, though) is the one to watch.

  71. CC – c’mon man. that is NOT Arnold. it’s probably the same stunt double who jumped the cycle into the reservoir. the face is entirely diff. i’ll look up a screenshot later, cause now i’m second guessing myself. but i’m still 95% on that one.

  72. Mac> Don’t. Its got Travolta in it. Hamming it up as both the good and bad guy.

  73. Jek,

    So then, do you think he’s being genuine when he has Cruise assume the JC position on the mountainside? Like, is that supposed to be serious Christian imagery? Or is Woo goofing us?

  74. Stuntcock Mike – the boat crash? Seriously? John Woo had his faults, many of which are on display in the opening and closing action scenes in this movie; and I think maybe people are forgetting that fact, given that action filmatism has regressed so far recently with the advent of shakycam. So basically what I’m saying is… shakycam is what it’s taken for you guys to lower your standards.

    Not that I’m saying “Face/Off” is bad. On the contrary, for anybody who goes for this kind of insanity, I’d recommend it wholeheartedly – for most of the movie it’s pure undiluted awesome – I’d just point out that Woo’s excesses were on full display in this one at two points, and the results ain’t pretty.

    Con Air… ok this one deserves further analysis. And by “analysis” I mean “rip the fucker to shreds”. I’m not feeling charitable, so any of you who enjoy my occasional rants will probably not be disappointed. Here we go.

    This film is an excellent study in how a director can utterly ruin an interesting script. The actors are clearly trying their hardest to make something out of this mess. The soundtrack is good. The cinematography is Michael Bay’s usual style, which means plenty of lemonade sunsets, but could be great if used correctly. I can’t blame this fuckup on any of the actors, the screenplay writers, the cinematographer or the sound guy. There’s only one person to blame for it, and that’s the director.

    First point: there are no characters in this movie. Correction: there is one character in this movie, played by about twenty different actors. Plus Steve Buscemi (who could’ve saved this movie, but didn’t.)

    This film is basically every actor (other than Steve Buscemi) trying to mega-act more than the others. The scenes (other than those featuring Steve Buscemi or Monica Potter) don’t have characters talking. They shout. And boy, do they shout. It has the “Bad Boys 2” quality of virtually every line of dialogue being screamed, preferably with obscenities.

    Not that I have anything against movie characters saying “fuck” or the like, but this shit is just tiring. It’s like having R Lee Ermey strap you into a chair and scream in your face for two hours, except someone’s hit him over the head and he’s become functionally retarded to the point that he can’t think of anything remotely interesting or original to say.

    Second point: this film takes a few good ideas, and executes the living shit out of them.

    Case in point: there’s one memorable moment where Nic Cage and allies push a dead body out of an aeroplane to warn the cops, etc. There about a hundred awesome things they could do with this scenario, and they actually choose one of them – having the body crash through the windscreen of an elderly couple’s car, thousands of feet below, just as said couple are complaining about flies on their windshield. There’s NO WAY that can’t be awesome, right? How can you possibly fuck up something that great?

    Well, somehow Michael Bay manages it. Because rather than using a normal old couple, this is a Michael Bay old couple, meaning their entire dialogue (about four lines) consists of them SHOUTING AND MOTHERFUCKING SWEARING AT EACH OTHER. Thereby once again making them identical to every single other character in this entire fucking movie (except Steve Buscemi).


    Third point: Steve Buscemi.

    So there’s one scene in this whole two-hour-something movie that completely works. And just so that any of you who’ve not seen “Con Air” aren’t tempted into doing something you’ll regret and actually watching it, I’m gonna spoil it for you. Trust me, I’m doing you a favour here.

    You see, Steve’s character is a convict who’s tied up, Hannibal Lektor-style, for harming kids. Lots of kids. Of course he gets free, and of course there happens to be a playground nearby. As it turns out, even Michael Bay couldn’t completely fuck up a premise this good, so what you get is an amazingly tense scene where Buscemi wanders, unsupervised and free, amongst the children. It’s left somewhat ambiguous as to what happens at that point.

    Later on we discover that he left them very much alive, and disappeared. He’s never caught. There could have been an element of repentance here, but of course it doesn’t work, because we never see what he did in the first place. This is the only really interesting character written into the movie and he’s given about five minutes of screen time, in total. I think the movie’s writers had him in mind as some sort of a philosophical voice among the chaos, but Michael Bay doesn’t have a clue how to use him.

    So for the majority of the movie, he just disappears. He’s never a credible menace, despite his restraints; he doesn’t really do anything interesting. I didn’t feel either glad or afraid that he was set free at the end of the movie. I’m not even sure whether I was supposed to feel glad for him or afraid of him. He should be the “hook” of this movie, but instead he’s a great big zero.

    So that’s “Con Air”. A film where every bit of talent is wasted, every good idea comes to nothing. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

    If anybody wants to mount a case for the defence, I’d be really interested to see what you come up with. It’s one of those films that some people just seem to like for some reason, and for the life of me I don’t understand why. To me it’s not close to being as bad as “Bad Boys 2”, not even as low as “Transformers”, but it’s definitely inferior to “Pearl Harbor” and “Armageddon”. And it’s not like either of those two films were classics, except occasionally in the purely unintentional sense of the word.

  75. Hooooooly shit I had no idea that was so long. Apologies.

    Basic idea: Con Air sucks, wastes every good idea and actor in it. That’s pretty much it.

  76. Paul, you do realize Michael Bay had nothing to do with CON AIR, right?

  77. ANoniMouse – Thanks for bringing up the ending. I always thought that too. The idea that Archer would have to live the rest of his life with Troy’s face would be tragic, but relevant. It took that to bring his son’s killer to justice, but the only surgeon who could replace the faces was gone. Also, Troy slicing up Archer’s face so he couldn’t have it back was a nice evil touch.

    The alternate ending, that Troy was still alive as Archer, that’s just stupid. That’s like, “Whoah, we shocked you!” No, there was a relevant tragic ending, but it’s also so good you totally don’t mind that they rewarded Archer with getting his face back.

    Taking Troy’s kid, yeah, that’s weird. I mean, not much time to really deal with the ramifications of that at the 130 minute mark, so that’s left for us to debate here. LOVE the Archer family reunion idea. Too bad there wasn’t Youtube in 1997!

    I’ll save my thoughts on The Rock and Con Air for when they get Vern-ed.

    Oh, and Vern, I’d also love for you to see The American. I think you’ll really like it. But old Woo is certainly a good project. I’ve always preferred The Killer to Hard Boiled (I know, I know) but Bullet in the Head is my favorite.

  78. See? People blame Michael Bay even for the failures in Con Air! ;)

  79. Mr Majestyk…

    …Well no, I didn’t.


    Every point still stands though, just call it the fault of the guy who actually directed the movie. (“Simon West” apparently.)

  80. Simon West (the director of CON AIR) wishes he had half the testicle of talent of Michael Bay’s.

    Bay has his faults, and there are plenty of them, but mayhem (Bayhem!) is what he does well. CON AIR is a very watered down version of Bay’s work.

  81. It’s okay, Paul. Thinking that Bay directed CON AIR is one the most common fallacies of the modern age. It’s the new “Screech from SAVED BY THE BELL is Mike D from the Beastie Boys’ little brother.”

    And in all fairness, it was clear that Mr. West was given instructions to do it like Mike. Despite that, I’m not a huge fan of the movie, but the bunny scene makes me forgive all.

  82. Another popular mistake is “Tarantino directed From Dusk Till Dawn”.

  83. Or “Spielberg directed GREMLINS.”

  84. Or “Spielberg directed Back To The Future”!

  85. oh, oh, I got one… um…. Marilyn Manson was Paul on THE WONDER YEARS!

  86. From my parent’s time – “The kid who played Eddie Haskel grew up to be Alice Cooper.”

  87. I think Tarantino wrote the first half, didn’t he? pretty sure Rodriquez directed the whole thing.

  88. Or “George Lucas directed every Star Wars movie”.
    (Don’t worry, I go to bed now. Any further exploitation of this topic is not my fault.)

  89. Dan– There’s nothing I’ve read about Woo or seen in his movies that would make me think he would be goofy with Christian imagery, so I would say it’s a sincere, albeit kind of broad, reference to Christ. I think in the commentary at that point Woo is still talking about how he was too afraid to watch Cruise doing the climbing stuff and watched it only through a monitor; I don’t think he talks about Tom looking like Jesus. Since Woo didn’t write the movie, I think he’s not saying that Ethan Hunt is modeled after Christ, but that Hunt is as close as we’re going to get to a version of Christ in MI:2. Plus rock climbing alone on your vacation is not that close to being forcefully nailed down and left to die, in my mind.
    Also, I vote you break down the opening of Face/Off for your project, because as has been noted, it’s pretty interesting to see what would normally have enough action and scale to be the climax of a movie as instead our introduction to Castor Troy.

  90. Speaking of Michael Bay, it’s interesting to compare him to John Woo. Both are directors who wear their obsessions and quirks on their sleeve – you can immediately tell it’s a Woo or a Bay movie just by watching a few minutes of them. Woo has his slow-motion gunplay, melodrama of duality, and doves. Bay has his explosions, constant magic hour lighting, fetishization of the military, and the grimy and sweaty men surrounded by women with porn star looks.

    While Woo almost always tries explore the (melo)drama rising from comparing and contrasting drastically different, but always similar people in his films and everything revolves around them, Bay is more interested in the immediate. In a perfect Bay world, nothing exists beyond the given moment. In Woo’s films, the conflict arises from the two characters being pitted against one another and struggling to overcome their differences and the realizations of the common ground. In Bay’s films, the conflict is in all the individual scenes, generated by themselves – things are urgent because they are urgent, the characters are in conflict because they are in conflict.

    If FACE/OFF is one of the purest examples of Woo, then TRANSFORMERS 2 is the purest example of Bay. Not being restrained by things like screenwriters (due to the strike) and given full creative reins thanks to the success of the first film, Bay had the chance to do whatever he wanted. The result is basically a dadaist action movie. And I think it’s fucking great.

  91. Well put, HK. But you left out that shot Bay puts in every movie where the camera is looking up at his heroes while circling them. That’s basically his slow-mo doves. You see that shot, you know it’s Bay.

  92. Jek,

    Good call, thank you.

  93. As far as the different ending of Hard Target in the theatrical and the workprint, Sam Raimi HAD to have been the one to suggest changing it. It has that weird Sam Raimi sense of humor. It’s gotta be it.

    Vern, if you need a copy of the work print, I have it on DVD. It’s not the best quality ever because it’s a dub from a VHS but it’s also really watchable.

    And, if you’ve only seen the theatrical version, Van Cleff gets shot almost as much as that guy in Robocop. It’s way cooler.

  94. I’ve been told by folks who worked on T2 that Arnold did everything in the LA River chase except the jump off the ledge, the “deer hunter”-style gag passing the truck on the wall side (which, remember, is shot from behind), and the shot at the end, riding out of the tunnel as the truck explodes behind him. I believe ’em, too–I mean, honestly, it looks like Arnold to me.

  95. So I was looking for a copy of the HARD TARGET work print and I found this: http://www.ioffer.com/i/miami-vice-gay-slash-fanzine-hard-target-40736666

    MIAMI VICE was a show about two attractive men who wear designer clothing and work together very closely. But they go with Edward James Olmos for the gay slash fiction? That mustache must have superpowers.

  96. P.S. Is the International Cut the one to get or should I hold out for the work print?

  97. Yes, the rising slow-mo three-sixty shot. Absolutely. Or banking helicopters. And Woo has his dual pistols (preferably Berettas), characters standing back-to-back exchanging dialogue during gunfights and so on. Both guys have a laundry list of visual gimmicks they love to indulge, and subject matters they include in all their films.

    These guys aren’t the type of filmmakers who can disappear into their work. Their personal touches are always right there in the open. Some might call it distracting and cheesy, but I love them. At least their films are distinctive.

    Well, PAYCHECK might be the exception. But that’s a film that made Woo move back to China.

  98. Damn you, Ben Affleck. THE TOWN has a lot to answer for.

    I don’t mind a filmmaker who has a bunch of tics (unless I do; I’m capricious that way). De Palma has his split screens and tracking shots, Tarantino has his foot fetish and trunk shot, etc.

  99. CC: this is what i’m talking about. my mistake, it wasn’t the frame where he lifts John.

  100. Notice nobody mentioned “Spielberg directed Poltergeist” because that one’s probably true. :)

  101. HT, you anger me with your nonsense. I am disturbed easily when a Vern movie review spurs a slew of comments on other movies & unrelated filmmakers, but I am normally tolerant & correspondingly silent since I respect the oozing of fandom & occasionally useful meandering associative thought that we sometimes witness in these threads. Still. . . How dare you sully a thread on my beloved Face//Off with this, this. . . ughh.

    I studied Dadaism in Honors Western Civilization & Intro to Theatre classes in college. I’ve been to a few museums and galleries, including plenty of modern art and contemporary art museums. Bay ain’t no dada artist, chief. Racist motherfucker used a close-up of John Turturro’s ass in a g-string. Not cool.

    Concerning Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, I’ll let my favorite professional critic speak for me. Matt Brunson called it “the equivalent of a 150 minute waterboarding session.” A graduate of SERE school (where instructors are allowed to break 2 minor bones and 1 major bone, where I drank water filtered through a fucking sock, where I would have been waterboarded but for accumulation of blood in my nasal cavity worrying the physician as a greater potential factor in my possible drowning or clotting) might think otherwise, but, still, I feel that Mr. Brunson may have been altogether accurate in his assessment as a civilian critic.

    Now I’ll let one of my favorite amateur critics drop some rage for me:
    **[Transformers 2] makes me reprioritize all that I feel is wrong with the world. It makes me wonder about the decision-making process of those who have billions of United States dollars at their disposal. It makes me question the state of civil rights, of objective reality, of realization of imagination, of puberty, of the depressing nature of the inevitable intersection of technical expertise and mainstream entertainment.**
    **Watching [Trannies 2] with optimism and open-mindedness was like trying to convince oneself that the girl with AIDS is still a cute romantic prospect.**
    **It was like having a hot girlfriend who happens to be a raging racist.**
    **This became a provocative, emotional cinematic experience for me for all the wrong reasons. I actually wanted to punch someone responsible for this mess during much of the film.**

    Face//Off was nothing like this. Face//Off makes me happy. It exhilarates me. It makes me want to be a better cinema spectator and a better human being. I haven’t regretted one instant that I’ve spent with Face//Off.

  102. Was trying to put together a list of the top 5 DUMBEST movies ever made. Not saying worst just dumbest story wise. Roadhouse is number one. Best bouncer in the world, lets bring him in to a little town so we can make our bar a success. Fair Game is actually a pretty good action movie but insanely dumb. Watch it, cant remember the plot off the top of my head but bad guys tracking everything the heroes do from their car. Armageddon is WAY up there. “He’s the best driller in the world”. Really? Face Off is so ridiculous you have to laugh but that doesnt make it a bad flick. I actually like it and think Travolta and Cage do a great job in it. So does the guy who plays Cage’s brother.

  103. Mouth – well said. At least about the “sullying” part. “Transformers 2” might be the best film of the decade for all I know (although I rather doubt it).

    JG – “Terminator 3”, a film that I quite like despite its obvious flaws, has got to make that top five, easily. “Face/off”, despite the premise, isn’t half as dumb as the others in my opinion.

    But in “T3” you have a kid who’s not used a mobile phone for the last eight years, yet knows how to operate a particle accelerator (and the consequences of doing so in an unshielded environment while being chased by a killer robot dominatrix). And you have a suburban vet who can expertly fly a light aircraft. That’s even before we go into the question of why a coffin built solely for the purpose of storage should be bulletproofed – did its makers think the guns were going to come to live and shoot their way out? – plus the slight flaw in the future Mrs Connor’s plan to send back a near-unstoppable killing machine in order to stop a Terminator that was specifically built to take over and control near-unstoppable killing machines. Don’t think she quite thought that one through somehow.

  104. A better question might by 5 Dumbest Ideas that Turned Into Great Movies. Face/Off would be number one.

  105. JG, I can’t live in a world where somebody says Fair Game is a great action movie.

    I also can’t live in the world who puts Roadhouse as the number one dumbest movie. It’s a modern day western. It almost like predates Unforgiven really.

  106. Whatevs, dudes, I’m going to go watch Hawaii dominate Southern Cal now. I’ve got the NCAA foosball fever. I stand by everything I’ve written and I wish more folk, if they are so inclined, would challenge me on any of the particulars. I can’t stay angry right now, though, not on opening night of football season. (Talk to me again in a few weeks once I see how hideous Syracuse is again this year and I might be singing a different tune. . . )

  107. What’s funny about Fair Game is that, according to the plot, there is no reason for the bad guys to expend all that time, effort, and energy trying to kill Cindy Crawford. It’s not that important and, in fact, it’s a complete distraction from their plan.

  108. Also, it seems like Fair Game is part of an odd exploitation/Grindhouse (sorry to use that word) type cycle that Joel Silver had going for awhile…in the middle of producing these big, spectacle action movies, he’d also produce sleeker, higher budget versions of drive-in type movies: Action Jackson, Ricochet (blaxploitation), Roadhouse (good ol’ boy) and Fair Game (Andy Sidaris type soft core).

    Joel Silver’s under-rated, imho

  109. Hey, you know what else was great? Casablanca. It’s a really clever little film about a guy who’s both good & bad and we’re not sure which’ll win out in the end and the director did some other movies too as did the stars and maybe we should all rewatch it hey whaddyaknow I’m babbling about a totally different movie in the aftermath of Vern’s Face//Off review oh well let’s all talkback about whateverthefuckwewantnow.

  110. Some things I don’t have problem with: obvious stunt doubles, John Travolta and Steven Seagal’s weight, people going off topic…all these things are fun to me, but I understand that others might disagree.

  111. Mouth,

    I think once you get past 100 or so replies, going off topic is… shall I say… FAIR GAME?

    (But yeah, seriously, I wish Vern would give us a potpourri or tells it like it is once in a while so that these other threads aren’t as cluttered)

  112. Don’t try your Jedi voodoo trix on me, homeslice. My rage is valid, even if it is FAIR GAME, and I won’t have you convince me otherwise.

    I know I saw and/or heard somewhere from John Woo himself that “Over the Rainbow” is one his favorite and/or one of his most formatively significant songs. How about that 1940s Judy Garland, huh? What a hotty. Er, I mean, in the wake of Showgirls, I wonder if a Gina Gershon casting audition for Face//Off is available. That’s the kind of DVD extra I’d be interested in.

  113. Well, let’s get back on topic then….Slow motion doves are pretty awesome. And I like the part where the guy said that thing; here are some random quotes from the movie…also, the first time I watched Face/off I was totally fingering my girlfriend (please think I’m cool; please pay attention and acknowledge me! Why aren’t they fucking acknowledging me! Think, damn it! Think! Why don’t they see me as colorful and larger than life? Oh fuck! I’m hyper-ventilating! (gasp, choke) Must…force…my…ego…onto others…by pretending…to be annoyed when people break non-existenent rules, will use…bad, poorly thought-out satire…please God, let them think I’m cool! (gurgle) Was…once…a man! Was once a man!)

  114. But seriously, My theory is that Mouth truly does not give a shit if people go off topic; most of his posts in this thread have been strained attempts at appearing larger than life and colorful, and I expect that when nobody reacted quite the way he wanted them to (acknowledging his awesomeness) he felt the need to lash out. Hence, seizing on this idea of going “off topic” and trying to angrily enforce non-existent or malleable rules in hopes of increasing his own ego.

    Really, I suspect this is not an actual concern but just a person engaging in petulant, feminized shut-downy type behavior.

  115. I will attempt to bring us back on topic. Or at least back to John Woo.

    When FACE/OFF first came out I had no fucking interest in seeing it because it looked so insanely stupid. Then my buddy Chris saw it and afterwards he showed up at my house and was like, “Come with me.”

    “Where are we going?”

    “To see FACE/OFF again.”


    Needless to say, Chris was a good buddy. I loved FACE/OFF because it realized that it was insanely stupid and totally went for it anyway. So. a good time at the movies.

    Flash forward a couple of years. FACE/OFF is on TV and I’m like, “Oh, I remember this being good.” So I watch it again and HOLY SHIT IT’S AMAZING. Case in point: there’s a whole scene where Evil-Nick-Cage-Travolta tries to seduce Joan Allen. And the whole time you’re squirming in your seat as it builds and builds because you’re like, “She cant sleep with him. That’s not her husband. That’s evil Nick Cage!!!” And then right at the end of the scene it turns – she’s not gonna sleep with him after all. So you exhale a sigh of relief. But then another twist – nah, she fucks him after all.

    In a hollywood movie released in the nineties. The hero’s wife spends a week fucking the terrorist arch-villain. Holy shit!!!

    I had a new respect for Jonathan Woo after that.

    Last John Woo story: first movie I worked on when I moved out to Hollywood was Mission: Impossible II. I was so excited. SO excited. I busted my ass because I wanted my work to be great because the movie was going to be great, because this was JOHN FUCKING WOO THE DIRECTOR OF FACE/OFF DIRECTING!

    Opening night, I get all my friends together. So proud. We’re all going to go to the theater and watch this amazing movie I worked on. The lights go down. The movie starts. I can barely breathe…

    Two hours later, the lights come up and my friends and I are all sitting there in silence. I turn to them and I say: “That was horrible.”

    You live and learn…

  116. Daniel, another good point about the depth of Face/Off that still sticks with me. Not only is it all the levels of hero/villain identification, all the supporting characters have something at stake too. Archer’s put his wife in the worst position of anybody, and to me the idea that she kind of has to forgive him for it is profound.

    I think that’s asking a lot for Hollywood audiences to forgive too. I mean, I guess nobody can really relate to being tricked into fucking your son’s murderer because your husband switched faces with him and then he woke up and killed all the doctors who knew about it. But if you could, I bet it would be hard to forgive the husband who was in some ways an accomplice and help him kill the bad guy and get his family back.

    Oh, and other movies I want Vern to review: True Lies, Speed, and I guess all the formative movies of my youth.

  117. Well, I’ll take your observations under advisement, W.S., but, be advised, I do tend to deflect attention away from myself and dish out kudos fairly often here when I see something that rubs me the right way; I ain’t always enraged or seeking attention. I just like to see everyone bring their A game. I don’t give a shit about acknowledgments of my own awesomeness, seeing as how I remain anonymous (That’s gotta be a paradox, no?), and I don’t think I’m quite guilty of lashing out at any individuals, just the idea, the bothersome notion of whatever it was that was happening here before Hawaii gave up, like, 50 points to SoCal goddamnit why were they playing 3 linebackers on second & 1 no wonder USC gashed them up the sidelines plus the officials didn’t help either it easily could’ve been a one-score game for the last 2 possessions anyway. . .

    1997 was a good year for some of us. June-July 1997 was an especially wonderful time for some of us. Let’s hear some more of that action. (Was your girlfriend well-groomed when you were groping for the g-spot?) I was hoping to maybe facilitate a harmless, fun trip down ole memory lane (Attaboy, Messrs. Strange & Topel.), bouncing off the vibe that Vern started in the first 3 sentences of his review, but instead I apparently came off as an egotistical woman (Larger than life? Not sure I see that one.), so good for you, W.S., whose name I vaguely recognize from the past few months I’ve been a semi-regular here — this will be the first time I remember anything of substance you have posted.

    I’ve resisted the urge so far to comment on the often unwieldy practice of wielding 2 pistols simultaneously, but I guess everyone’s probably already an expert on that shit. If you’re curious, mimicking a Woo shootout sequence is a good way to bruise one’s elbows and the same muscle you work out when you do pull-ups, the lats or something.

  118. All this negativity and “petulant” behavior is all Michael Bay’s fault.

  119. Jeez, a thread about Woo and nobody praises Hardboiled and The Killer, 2 of the best actionmovies ever made? I watched Hardboiled twice in a row in the cinema, despite it being dubbed into french and totally incomprehensible for me. Somebody asked what is the best actionscene ever? I would say the first 20 minutes of Hardboiled, or the last hour. The shoot-out in the warehouse is pretty sweet too. It also has one of the best posters ever. Yeah, Face/Off is fun, but an insult to Woo`s chinese career. I actually prefer Hard Target. It has great actionscenes AND Lance Henriksen. And a bit where Van Damme punches out a snake and rips of it`s tail with his teeth.

    Random thoughts; Has anybody seen Ringo Lam`s City of Fire, Burning Paradise and Full Contact? I would love to read Vern`s thought on them. Almost classics.

    John Tuttoro actually suggested the close-up off his ass in Transformers 2.

    Toy Story 3 is the best movie of the year. The last scene broke my heart.

    I thought Mouth was a girl.

    Tobe Hooper directed Poltergeist. Tarantino wrote all of From Dusk To Dawn. Anything else is lies. LIES, I tell you!!

    Finally caught Black Dynamite. Damn, it`s good. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Vern. I would love to read your reviews of Coffe, Foxy Brown, The Big Dollhouse and The Big Bird Cage.

  120. That is badass, dna, that you’d watch a movie dubbed in a language you don’t know. I know the feeling, and you gotta give credit to the awesome visual stylists who make that kind of thing worthwhile.

    Difference between Hard-Boiled/The Killer (Yeah, I don’t mind lumping them together sometimes, for the sake of convenience.) and Face//Off is basic shootout quality — that is, it’s the editing, plain & simple. Those older, cheaper Hong Kong joints, though awesome and beloved by myself as much as by anyone, feature several moments of overdone bullet wounds and sloppy back-&-forth cuts of bangbang, bloodblood.

    Also, though I always do my best to suspend disbelief, I personally have a thing the past several years with noticing really wretched firearm accuracy (How many sparks flew on those various metal structures in the awesome warehouse shootout? How can you miss so much from fucking 40 feet with an uzi?!) and with counting expended ammunition & magazine capacity. It’s my OCD cross to bear as an action film fan.

  121. It`s better not thinking about stuff like that. I`ve heard that people usually fall forwards when being blasted with a shotgun instead of flying 2-3 meters through the air and crash into a neonsign. Where`s the fun in that? Or if you shoot somebody in the head at point blank, the skull flattens the bullet and it ricochets inside your cranium, turning your brain into scrampled eggs, instead of blowing through the back of your head and leaving brainmatter on the wall behind you. Somebody should contact mythbusters and get them to look into it.

    The greatest thing about heroic bloodshed-flicks, is that no chinese person ever dies from a single bulletwound. You have to shoot them at least 20-30 times. Chinese people are almost like zombies. You can`t take them out unless you put a bullet in their head. That`s badass!

  122. While Face Off is one of Woo’s better US films, it doesn’t hold a candle to his original Hong Kong flicks, before he was spoiled by the Hollywood system.

    Like the early Hong Kong films (The Killer, Hard Boiled, Bullet in the Head) the motifs are strong and consistent and most of all make sense and don’t seem like just some artistic stylings of a ‘foreign’ director. The most obvious ones having been discussed above (eg. the two sides of the same coin personalities of the leads, the personal family touches/moments that show the hard ass as being human, the interloper being in the most private areas/moments of his quarry, etc …)

    Yeah the action isn’t realistic, but show me a John Woo film that you can watch more than once where it is, but it certainly is a highlight in excess, slow mo, two handed, jumping while all sorts of shit explodes while birds fly slowly by. (Never bothered to question that they use high explosive ammo in all the guns, or how they make seemingly inert material (aircraft hanger walls, plastic drums) explode like they were made of C4

    Vern, when you revisit the early Woo collection, can you cover Bullet in the Head as i am interested in your thoughts on this, especially in light of Woo’s take on the Vietnam war.

  123. John Woo´s movies are great. Amazing action + catholicism + homoerotism.

  124. Thread jumping but based on years of people telling me The Wire is a-okay I finally got around to watching the first two episodes of Season 1 last night.

    Not what I expected but yup, pretty good. I’m in.

  125. Congrats Stuntcock, it continues on an up and up of quality from here. Then you can join us as one of the annoying posters that keep telling Vern that he has to watch The Wire.

  126. With apologies to Mouth for returning to this, I was thinking about what HT wrote, comparing Woo to Bay because they both have very indentifiable visual things they like to do (as do lots of name directors). I feel that Woo has his things like slow motion, doves, and two guns at once because for him they are an expression of sincere belief in what it means to be a man, and where he stands in the universe. In Bay films, especially when they seem to take themselves pretty seriously, it seems to me Bay shows things like hero shots and massive explosions so that I will be thinking about how awesome this is, and how awesome the dude who made this happen is. I think the difference is that in Face/Off, which comes off as having a stupid story for lots of people, the director does not see it as stupid because he believes he is expressing themes that matter in the best way that he can (and it’s incidental if it seems excessive and implausible to the audience), whereas in say Bad Boys 2, which also many people feel has a stupid story, the director does not see it as stupid because he thinks the audience will see its excess as so awesome, as such an overwhelming spectacle, that we won’t notice the moronic moments of poor storytelling and lack of humanity throughout.

  127. I never thought Mouth was a woman but I’ll be damned if I don’t want to fuck his avatar.

  128. Jek Perkins – I agree. Bay is style over substance. But wasn’t the same true of Woo in most of his Hollywood work? For the utmost example of this, look no further than “Mission: Impossible 2”. Great cinematography in places, great soundtrack, etc. If one looks purely at the style aspect, “MI:2” should be a goddamned masterpiece, not a clunky action feature with a boring villain told from the point of view of the lead actor’s hairstyle.

  129. “The point of view of the lead actor’s hairstyle” made me laugh so hard the other people at work looked up at me weirdly.
    I guess as I said before, the Woo-ness still comes through for me in his Hollywood movies to where I enjoy them. I have to admit I never believe Tom Cruise really cares about Thandie Newton in MI:2, so maybe it’s partly the acting that I think often weakens the substance of Woo’s american films, and again, the fact that he doesn’t write them. I guess as see Woo’s Hollywood movies as still having value because it’s worthwhile to see Woo-ness qualities in a big-budget film, even if it doesn’t have the overall greatness of The Killer, I’d much rather watch a Woo Hollywood blockbuster than a Bay.

  130. Well said, Jek.

    It’s perfectly excusable to become irrational when post-The Rock Michael fucking Bay infiltrates so many discussions so repeatedly. This is the guy who had his version of 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt stand up (!) to make a point to his advisors, people. He was trying to make a serious movie (which featured a sweetass trailer, as I recall) about the pivotal moment for what came to be labeled “The Greatest Generation,” and he had FDR rise from his wheelchair in a moment of inspiration. I don’t know how to express more clearly how disgusting and anti-intellectual this freak is.

    After that, Bay never ever gets credibility for anything, even if 20% of each of his movies from that point on don’t totally suck. He is worthy of our outrage, yet he makes 9 figures. This is why people hate America.

  131. Jek – despite what I said above, I actually agree with you. I enjoyed MI:2, partly because of the things it gets right, and partly because for all its flaws I think it’s still an interesting failure.

  132. Mouth – well I blamed Michael Bay for Con Air, which it turns out he didn’t even make.

    Next on my list of things to blame Michael Bay for: 9/11, Christina Hendrick’s dress, the bubonic plague.

  133. Paul, while we have you on the line, be advised that The Untouchables*** is now available to stream on Netflix. I know it’s Michael Bay’s fault you haven’t yet seen it, but let’s remedy this now. . .

    ***That’s that mobster movie we think you’ll tolerate, maybe even like. It’s a cineaste’s requirement to see it if only for featuring the most famous homage sequence in history.

  134. Even more outrageous than FDR standing up is Alec Baldwin’s speech about killing as many Jap bastards as possible. Bay and Bruck really thought they were going for Oscar here.

  135. I love Bay’s films precisely because of the unrestrained excess.

    It’s not about quality of storytelling or other benchmarks in which we usually gauge a narrative film, it’s about pushing the limit of what can be thrown at us, how much, and how fast. Whether it’s the biggest damn explosions ever, or trying to cram most information to the shortest amount of time possible (the shuttle crash in ARMAGEDDON has something like twelve frame long cuts). The man shoves every penny on the screen – there are no subtle character moments breaking up the bigger setpieces. *Everything* in a Michael Bay film is a big setpiece, even the so-called character moments. And when regular movies would decide to stop, that audience has enough, Bay just goes one step further. He puts in the “fourth act” sequences like the invasion of Cuba (!) in BAD BOYS 2, or the Doolittle Raid in PEARL HARBOR.

    Before AVATAR was released, people joked about it being total eyeball fucking in 3D. But actually, it was rather subdued in its use of 3D. Michael Bay doesn’t play that shit. I’m expecting TRANSFORMERS 3, which will be in 3D, to be the definition of eyeball rape.

    And I’m sure he’s doing the crazy over-the-top stuff on purpose, not out of laziness. From what I’ve seen from the interviews and the behind-the-scenes docs, he’s very precise and meticulous on what he wants, and he’s making precisely the kind of films he wants.

    I’m grateful for directors who make subdued artist statements, create moving stories, and unforgettable characters. But I’m also grateful for a directors whose unrelenting passion is pushing – and breaking – the definition of excess. It takes a visionary person to achieve the results Bay is getting.

    And even you hate Bay’s quirks and obsessions, or what he’s doing with his films, you’ve got admit – after watching a few of his movies, run-of-the-mill action scenes from lazier directors seem bland and total cop outs. Like it or not, he does raise the bar with what he’s doing.

  136. See, I know exactly where you’re coming from, HT, what you’re saying and what you’re trying to say. I was at the same point you currently occupy back in 1998 when Armageddon assaulted my senses while my 15-16 year old classmates were gushing about how great it was.

    Dude’s already been ripped to shreds by critics, amateur & professional, in virtually every obviously questionable aspect (plagiarism, stupidity, arrogance, bigotry, etc.) of his career’s output, but I’m totally willing to look past the usual allegations and try to give him credit for adding beauty or at least facilitating some new nuance of the discussion of beauty & art in this world despite his shortcomings. I’d love to be the guy who goes to a museum, stares at a blank white wall, reaches in his pocket for a piece of gum, and then has the artist’s most ardent supporter come up to me and point at my gum & say, “See? That’s the art!”

    One great example of your point, that “*Everything* in a Michael Bay film is a big setpiece, even the so-called character moments,” is the dropped coffee mug in Armageddon. It gets filmed with the same gravitas and slo-mo intensity as any explosion or romantic hook-up. This was the instant I had that catharsis, that this imbecile is so in on his own joke that maybe he truly is some of kind near-genius anti-artist. I wanted to believe, and I still see stuff that I really like, like the 360 backagainstthewall-to-backagainstthewall shot in Bad Boys II, stuff that I’ve dreamed of putting in my own action movie someday. But then he continually borrows from himself. He’s shown no progress as an artist, only as a multimillionaire. I’ve reluctantly convinced myself that he’s a genuine moron, at least in the part of the brain that would garner respect from someone like myself.

    He prides himself on self-copycatism, and thus his efforts smack of studio-budget acquiescence and going the safe route. And, most recently, he has inserted the worst, unfunniest attempts at humor that I’ve ever experienced. What idiot thought the pot brownies sequence in Transformers 2 was funny?

    Like you, HT, I truly love excess, even the many elements of it that Bay perpetuates; I enjoy it. Not every big onscreen dramatic moment has to be earned. But there is a point where the headache resultant from the insistent immediacy and shoving “every penny on the screen” transcends the realization of the glorious excess for the sake of excess.

  137. Anyway, enough Bayfication of this thread. How about that John Woo guy…

    I’m sort of glad PAYCHECK was a total dud (even though it’s not *that* horrible of a film, just so damn average, almost like a TV movie). It made Woo move back to China. And that resulted in RED CLIFF 1 and 2. The international cut I saw as two separate films was brilliant. I’d have to watch it again to see if I’d call it a timeless masterpiece, but I’d call it great time at the movies at least. I’m sure the visuals look great on BluRay.

    I do hope it signals Woo’s return to form. REIGN OF ASSASSINS seems a continuation of Woo doing kung fu films (although he’s got an odd co-director credit on that), and it looks fairly by-the-numbers for the genre, it’s hard to tell from a trailer. Then he’s got FLYING TIGERS in development. Don’t know if he’s going to direct that, or just produce.

  138. Red Cliff’s “Bigger, bigger!” scene with the fireballs immediately became one of my favorite scenes ever.
    I didn’t have a dog in the fight, you know, so I didn’t mind not pulling for one side over the other in the big battles. Somehow that made Red Cliff more enjoyable. Big thumbs up.

  139. HT – “average” for me is the worst kind of film, mostly. But then along comes a film like “Bad Boys 2” that manages to transcend my usual yardsticks and just be painful in every way it’s possible for a film to be.

    I didn’t even realise that Woo did “Paycheck”. Mind you, I never bothered to watch it all the way through either. Like I said, “average” is the worst kind of film.

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  141. RankBuilder, so glad to have you with us. I’m wondering though, just how intelligent a Spambot ARE you? Your colleague Griff (is he a colleague though? or merely a rival?) can make intelligent points about the cultural and historical influences that pervade recent cinema releases. Can you do the same? Or will you prove to be just a one-post wonder?

  142. HT, I would like to add a comment on Bay. I’m with you that I support what Michael Bay is. He’s totally Hollywood and he says exactly what he thinks and it’s kind of awesome. I think he’s sincere, whether he’s right or not (artistically speaking). I don’t like all of his films, although one is one of my favorites. Either way, the existence of Bay provides entertainment, even if it’s just listening to him explain his artistic excess. I hope he does make one of those small intimate character movies he talks about from time to time.

  143. I watched the full version of Red Cliff (AKA Badass Wars) yesterday. Classic!

  144. Paul, why do you think I’m a spambot? :(

  145. The original Paul

    September 7th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Griff, does it really matter to you that I have divined your secret? I’d like to think that even spambots have standards. After all, what would you rather be – lumped in with the rest of us average commentors, or the ultimate in spambot technology?

    Y’know, when Ahnuld got self-aware in “Terminator 2”, I didn’t hate him because he was more “human”. I hated him because he started wisecracking with Edward Furlong. There’s a moral in there somewhere.

  146. Don’t know if anyone caught this AWESOME Venn Diagram on the Cage-man, with FACE OFF at the epicenter:


  147. I know now why you cry, but it’s something I could never do

  148. FROM MIKE WERB — co-writer, co-producer of FACE/OFF.

    0) THANKS, VERN. For reviewing — and loving — the madness of Face/Off. You’re right — it would never be made (this way) today. In fact, it took 6 years to get made in the 90’s.

    It’s almost tear-inducing to know that after 13 years it can generate any amount of discussion much less 100+ posts. i just read every one — and as it was for “MOUTH” and several others — this was a trippy trip down memory lane.

    just to clarify a few things people commented on:

    1) PRISON ESCAPE. Yeah, it’s lame how he jumps off the oil rig and then magically is on shore. The ACTION SEQUENCE we wrote for this part of the film — by far our personal favorite — was cut for budget. Nic was as heartbroken — and as furious — as we were. But we couldn’t get it restored.

    2. OVER THE RAINBOW. The Judy Garland estate also refused our use of her voice in the film — so that’s Olive Newton John singing. (Initially it was “Puff the Magic Dragon” due to all the drug use in the loft).

    3. THE RAPE OF EVE ARCHER/JOAN ALLEN. We lost our deal with Warners over this. It made them too uncomfortable. Mel Gibson actually came to our defense and said there was “no reason to make the movie” if this scene was cut. (He understood that if Troy didn’t conquer his enemy’s wife — it would diminish everything that followed). Well, they didn’t make the movie, we did lose our deal — but then promptly resold the script to Paramount. Woo and Paramount, fortunately, understood).

    4. GINA GERSHON. I don’t think there’s any audition tape for her — she was offered the role and took it. It was sort of an in-house William Morris deal. She’s not just hot but really smart and hilarious. And also a great shot (she blew me off the firing range during a training session with the LAPD SWAT team).

    4. RED CLIFF. Awesome — worth the five hour investment! Also awesome from Woo: BULLET IN THE HEAD.

    5. VENICE FILM FESTIVAL. Woo just received the lifetime achievement award — presented by Tarantino.

    6. THANKS TO DON MANCINI. Creator of “Chucky” and writer/director/producer of the great “Child’s Play” franchise who sent me this link.

  149. 7. Thanks, Mr. Werb!

  150. That’s awesome thanks for coming to the thread and sharing Mr. Werb.

    Also Vern continues his high record of magically making people involved in the making of the films he’s reviewed appear in the comments to discuss them!

  151. Wasn’t the last one when Christopher Coppola showed up for DEADFALL? aka NICOLAS CAGE is: DEADFALL? Maybe it’s the Nic Cage touch. I would definitely read a book on Nic Cage’s career and mega acting theory a la SEAGALOGY. I think if Vern wrote something like that he might even be able to summon Cage himself. As long as it’s comprehensive enough to cover his Japanese commercial period:


    ps. Thanks Mr. Werb!

  152. On Red Cliff – watched the five hour version last week and enjoyed the fuck out of it, the standout being that guy who appears to be the Chinese equivalent of Brian Blessed.

  153. And to go off on the Japanese commercial tangent – this here for Suntory with Keanu Reeves http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32tuv4aE0j8 is pretty high up on the bizarrro scale.

  154. Thank you Mike Werb for commenting and filling us in on so many things we’ve always wondered about. I’d love to hear what happened in the missing prison escape action sequence.

    Not sure if you want to read it but I also reviewed DARKMAN III a while back, and I liked it. I mentioned some parallels to FACE/OFF but thinking about it now there are more than I picked up on. It has some parts that are like FACE/OFF in reverse, the good guy disguised as the bad guy trying to be a better father than him.


  155. Mr. Werb if you’re still around I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind talking about John Woo as a collaborator. I understand he stripped away your scripts sci-fi elements and made other alterations. I’m curious what role you played in the way the script evolved into the movie we now watch and enjoy.

  156. And did you have an ending where Archer was stuck with Troy’s face?

  157. Just got back from the Billy Wilder theater where they showed 3 episodes of “This is Your Life” — featuring Casey Stengel (right after managing yet another World Series victory); Roy Campanella (nine months after the accident); Satchel Paige (one week after his induction into the Hall of Fame). For free. Living in LA has its advantages!

    oh, yeah. back to Face/Off!

    VERN: The never-to-be-seen prison escape sequence. NOTE: The primary location at this point was the San Francisco Bay Area. Remember: Sean Archer can fly a helicopter. On the oil rig — Archer manages to steal a supply chopper. There’s an insane chopper v. chopper air chase culminating in Archer — trapped — intentionally crashing his vehicle into the water. It sinks. Fusillade explodes all around. The cockpit fills with water as the chopper settles to the bottom of the bay. Divers plunge into view and continue the pursuit. Archer takes a deep breath and swims a LONG way to a BART maintenance chamber. (note: this location was also set up earlier). Archer enters the BART tunnel and somehow manages to get onto a speeding train … and rides off to temporary freedom.

    I realize the above might sound lame — but my writing partner Michael Colleary and I worked for days with Mr. Woo and the storyboard artist on this sequence (as we did with most of the action scenes) — and it was literally and figuratively … breathtaking. Over dinner, I ended up being the one to tell Nic it was going to be cut. I thought he was going to cry. Then he got seriously pissed.

    Woo’s storyboards were incredible — so at least I have it in “flipbook” form. Someday, I’ll have to make an animatic of it …

    Regarding “Die Darkman Die” — no I haven’t read your review but I intend to. Absolutely — there are endless similarities — but Face/Off was actually written first (Sam Raimi hired us to write a Darkman sequel because he was a fan of the script).

    BRENDAN: Woo was the best collaborator we ever had. He’s a superb human being, a total gentleman, funny and brilliant. Many if not most directors don’t want the writers around. Woo insisted we be on set every day — and allowed us to deal with any dialogue issues the actors might have (and there were many). It’s true the script we sold to Warners was very sci-fi — but by the time it got to Paramount a lot of the futuristic elements had already been stripped away. This continued when Steve Reuther and Michael Douglas came aboard to produce. Douglas saw the story as a psychological thriller — so between that, and Woo, and the budget concerns — most of the residual sci-fi stuff went away. But there were phenomenal models of Erewhon Prison built by Neil Spisak (prod. designer of Spiderman etc etc.) before the change.

    The script evolved on all levels — we wrote 35 drafts I believe.

    FTOPEL: There never was a draft where Archer ended up having to keep Troy’s face. That said, we had written a several different endings. In one draft, we set up that Archer is lame at shooting hoops, but Troy is very good at the game. At the very end, “Archer” is playing basketball with his kid — hitting swish after swish after swish. The audience would have left the theater unsure of just who was actually living in that house.

    I know most posters feel the ending is pure schmaltz — but Colleary and I really embraced it. After all the hell that family went through — it felt satisfying. Curiously, the ending — where Troy’s offspring comes to live with the Archers — is the ONLY thing that was reshot. Paramount didn’t care for it in script form so we cut it. They didn’t think American audiences would want the hell-child in that house. But after our first test screening — it turned out they did. So everyone came back for half a day — and we got our ending back. At the next test screening our number were higher than Forrest Gump. Which is another reason why the film is so long … they didn’t want to screw with it any more.

    OLIVE NEWTON JOHN. I do realize her name is Olivia. I’m sure there are a zillion other typos I missed …


  158. Thanks Mike. I didn’t mean to imply I didn’t like the movie’s ending. I agree with you, it’s really satisfying that they come through it all. I just imagined the most ironic/tragic ending would be “Well, Sean, you saved the day but sorry, you’re stuck with Castor’s face.” I figured it would have come up in development but definitely Troy lives is a no no.

    The helicopter/subway scene sounds awesome. But good for keeping the movie long. It’s packed with goodness.

  159. Mike Werb – Just think if you all had kept that basketball ending, people years later would be bitching how INCEPTION ripped FACE/OFF…..err, off.

  160. wow, once again, vern has… The Summoning! (cue disonant kubrick musical score)

    yeah, FACE/OFF was one of those movies that when my friends and i first watched it in the theaters, we were in disbelief that the movie was allowed to be made the way it was. seemed like it was made for us and for us only (and most people here obviously). of course, clearly not true as it was a huge hit. you would think studios would learn from this example, but oh well.

    mike, if you’re still reading and you feel like it, can you give us one or two examples of stuff that nic cage brought to the movie that weren’t originally in the script?

    and… on the silly japanese commercial tangent, i’ve been living here long enough to have actually seen this one when it was originally on the air, but i like this ben stiller one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bW_cHfnOXM&feature=related because it is tonally almost exactly like the fake japanese commercial in ZOOLANDER.

    unfortunately, i think we are gonna see less and less in the way of hollywood stars humiliating theselves in japanese commericals because of youtube. in the past, celebs would get paid buttloads of cash to fly out here to shoot commericals and they would do things that they would normally consider embarrassing because they figured no one back home would ever see it, but now… EVERYONE CAN SEE THEM! the nic cage ones are amongst the best cuz he is one of the few hollywood stars who seems to get really into it and have fun with it, rather than just phoning it in.

  161. VirginGary: At around the mid-point of the six month shoot, there was a nightmarish rumor that the studio was going to change the title to “Doppleganger” — and the rumor reached Nic. So when he and other Nick (Cassavetes) were doing the Dietrich’s Loft Shoot-out — Nic started ad-libbing “I want to take his face … off.” The two Nic’s kept going and going — cracking everyone up including the studio execs on set. Part of that ad-libbing remained in the film — as did our title. I guess we have Nic to thank for that. NC also ad-libbed “no more drugs for that man” which has certainly become a fan favorite line.

    Oh, and another thing: Nic felt something was missing in the post-op scene when his bandages come off. He thought Archer would “lose it” on seeing his new face — and that’s the beat where he goes nuts and starts attacking the mirror. Nic was totally right about that.

    On the downside, we did have a rather sizable fight with him over some not so good ad-libbing regarding the Troy boys backstory. There was a well-written speech explaining why/how they became criminals involving their addict mother Helen who trained them to steal to support her habit — and how she died choking on her own vomit (in young Castor’s arms) in the waiting room of a packed and uncaring ER. The revelation was intended to balance things — for just as Castor learns about Archer’s family and the wounds he inflicted on it — so Archer learns about Castor’s difficult childhood (Pollux gives this speech to his “brother” in Erewhon). Unfortunately, Nic and Nivola decided to ad-lib some goofy comedy instead — something about their “fat father” making them “wear pink tutus” as the reason why they turned to crime. This happened on one of the few days we weren’t on set. The ad-lib was edited out — but their real backstory was never filmed — to the film’s detriment in my opinion. The very conceit of “FACE/OFF” requires it to be a never-ending balancing act — and on this important point it fails.

    If any of the above is on our blu-ray commentary track/s, I apologize for the redundancies — after 3 (?) years I still haven’t listened to it.

    RRA: loved inception — so i will take any comparison even a stretchy one!

    FTOPEL: The ironic ending you describe would have been utterly European — and awesome. we did consider it at one point — because after what he put Eve through — Archer kind of deserved it. But we never wrote it. The script was way-weird enough and I don’t know if we could have sold it with an ending like that (well, maybe in France). Also, Nic and the snow monkey? Simultaneously hilarious and sad …

  162. Thanks again Mike. I especially like the story about “I want to take his face… off.” I always laugh that the line is in the movie but it’s way funnier to know why it’s there.

    I have kind of a silly question if you’re still around. Like somebody said FACE/OFF was a big hit, so I wonder if anybody ever talked to you about a sequel, or if you ever considered what that would be. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish they did one or anything but if it was ever considered I’d love to know how the hell that would work.

    Also, who would Mel Gibson have switched faces with if that version got made? It’s hard to imagine without Cage and Travolta.

  163. VERN: There was a significant amount of discussion about a sequel for a while — and while we did mull over a “continuation story” — Colleary and I always felt it would work much better as a reboot with the same technology but different characters. One idea involved a racial switch — and another with women. Weird to think that what was considered a ridiculous/absurb/insane/stupid idea in 1997 — ie. Face Transplants — is now possible.

    Regarding mel gibson — he was never attached. He was just at silver pictures/warners at the same time we were and we sometimes found ourselves alone in a conference room with him. he’s a very curious person — loved the story — and for a brief moment in time became our creative ally.

  164. I remember hearing about a proposed female sequel to Face/Off. It definitely seems like the way to go would be take new characters and swap them. Really you could do new characters each time, because the interesting thing would be what they learn about each other through experiencing the other world.

    Unfortunately, I think the sequel I heard rumored was without any of the original team, which would have turned into a lame ripoff by people who didn’t understand the depth of a face switch. I love that Nic improv’ed the face…off speech.

    Oh, and Mike, thank you for being here and taking our questions. FWIW: I don’t think the movie is lacking for anything. Your backstory scene sounds great and I’m sure it would have been, but nothing about Castor/Sean’s journey is missing from the finished film.

  165. Yeah, that seems like the only way to go, but also seems like trouble because how can you match Castor Troy? It’s probly for the best that it never happened.

    But if it did I would hope that one of the new characters would have a gun case with Chiclets in it.

  166. VERN: Just read your review of Die Darkman Die: “I think it may be in the running for best DTV sequel ever made …”

    Sweet! Okay, I’m having dinner with Colleary tomorrow night and I’m going to bring him a hard copy because that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever read. And just to clarify — DDD was absolutely shot first but released second due to the larry drake casting. They also swapped some footage from our film and stuck in the other one. Sheesh!

  167. Okay I hope this isn’t heartbreaking but to be honest that review was written pre-UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION which is the 2001 of DTV sequels, and I would probly put the two UNDISPUTED sequels in second place now. But I sincerely enjoyed the hell out of DARKMAN 3 and was especially impressed because I had avoided it for many years assuming it was crap. It does a good job of capturing the fun of the original DARKMAN on a lower budget, but by no means is a rehash like so many sequels. I mean all that business of getting stuck disguised as Jeff Fahey is not something anybody would expect. It’s just a real fun time.

    I don’t know how to spell connosseur but if I did I would be one of those for DTV sequels, so I do mean that as a real compliment. You’d be surprised how many I’ve watched. There are more enjoyable ones than most people would think but almost none have as many great moments and clever ideas as DIE DARKMAN DIE. Also you gotta give it points for that title.

  168. I hope Vern will cap his forthcoming revisit to Woo’s Chinese filmmaking years, with a review of Red Cliff; especially after Mike Werb’s recommendation.

    (But I also hope he covers JW’s last swordfighting flick until then, “Last Hurrah For Chivalry.”)

  169. I have a Darkman question for Mike that I’ll post here since it’s come up. Considering DDD was written as the first sequel, did you ever consider a line that would explain Arnold Vosloo playing Peyton Westlake? Since he’s Darkman, I thought you could have just had him say, “After that, I vowed never to wear my original face again.” Boom, Vosloo was the new face he picked for appearing in public. It seemed weird that they missed that opportunity that’s built into the mythology and just assumed everyone still recognized Westlake. 15 year old nitpick, I know but I love Darkman so I like obsessing about those details.

    Vern, if there had to be a sequel to Face/Off it would have to be A list powerhouses like Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie. Who would be the female equivalent for mega acting?

  170. Helena Bonham Carter is a mega actor but I also kinda want to punch her in the face

  171. Gwai Lo: What Bonham Carter performances are you thinking of? I can’t think of a single one that would qualify as mega. The Tim Burton stuff?

    Also, why would you want to mess up that perfect face?

  172. Yeah, the Burton stuff (especially ALICE IN WONDERLAND and SWEENEY TODD), I haven’t seen the latest Harry Potter but I’m sure she mega’d that role based on the histrionics of her limited screen time in part five, FIGHT CLUB, MARY SHELLY’S FRANKENSTEIN, HAMLET, TERMINATOR SALVATION kinda, etc. Maybe calling her mega isn’t fair to the definition of mega acting, I think she’s a huge over-actor though. Can’t stand the woman, I find her revolting

  173. Helena Bonham Carter and Uma Thurman are… ANOTHER FACE/OFF!

  174. VERN: Colleary came up with the Die Darkman Die title and it still cracks me up — so thanks for pointing that out. i’ll have to check out universal soldier – regen.

    FTOPEL: We were never asked to explain the casting change through script. i think rob tapert and raimi assumed that since it was a DTV people would just accept it. but your suggestion is smart — and in retrospect i’m surprised the issue was never raised by anyone — including us. as you point out, it would have been utterly simple to execute.

    we were pretty lucky to get vosloo though — he’s a really good actor.

  175. Thanks Mike.

    I figured they just never thought they needed to explain a new actor in the role, but it was right there in the premise! It also would have been a great way to change actors every few movies, which I wish they’d made more because what a great character Darkman is. Vosloo did well as The Mummy too. :)

    Thanks for being here and answering questions.

  176. It’s strange how infrequently I see the video game with my name as the title mentioned in reviews or discussions of Face/Off. It’s probably because I knew some dude who was going nuts about it at the time, I never played it myself, but it was this concept a couple of years before the movie. Though it sounds like the game is actually dumber– I knew someone else who found it in a bargain bin while hunting for Mac titles. I mean, the main character’s name is “Jake Hard.”

  177. It’s okay Annie. I was doing research for my own Chinese laundry shop when I found Vern and I’ve been following him for a decade now.

  178. This just became my favourite Vern thread of one of my favourite movies. Mouth owned the comments by pure passion and decent taste.

    One thing no one seemed to pick up on in the Cage improv oeuvre, his line about “eating a peach” goes all the way back to Lynch’s WILD AT HEART in 1990 when Cage’s Sailor is telling his girlfiend Lula about the time he met a honey in a bar, and she opens her legs for him and says “take a bite of peach.”

    Surely that stuck in Cage’s unfettered brain and came back for an inspired ad-lib in FACE/OFF, which is, to use a Vernism, BEST FUCKIN MOVIE EVER.

  179. The AV Club’s A History of Violence pick for 1997.

    It’s Cage versus Travolta in the sublime overacting Olympics of Face/Off

    Face/Off was the moment that Woo got to be gloriously, euphorically himself in front of the largest possible global audience, and he was not trying to hold back Travolta or (especially) Cage.

  180. Fucking snarky AV Club asshole writers should better watch their fucking MOUTH! Seriously, I have no idea if the writer hated or liked the movie. Every sentence reads like: “This pile of shit is great. A brillant movie that totally sucks! I truly love this movie that I hate so much!”

    I just hate modern day popculture blogging…

  181. I only glanced over the article and it did not take long for me to dismiss the writer as a hipster asshole.

  182. The article was okay, if a bit condescending about Cage and Woo. I’m guessing the guy had probly just fucked his mother before he wrote it. Clearly the man doesn’t appreciate Mega as an artform. Vern’s review and the older comments (Mike Werb!) are pantheon.

    Also, now’s a good time to correct my name to something that makes more sense. Thanks Shoot (you asshole! :)) for pointing it out.

  183. I like FACE/OFF a lot but there’s no denying it’s a supremely ridiculous movie, don’t get me wrong, that’s what makes it great, but you can’t pretend the premise isn’t extremely far fetched (but cool) and the acting isn’t hammy as hell (but also entertaining as hell)

    I think the AV Club article is fair is in it’s assessment of the movie.

  184. Man, some people on this site seem to have a real bee in their bonnet about “hipsters”. Tom Breihan’s History of Violence series on AVClub has been really good. Even if I don’t always agree with his movie picks, he’s great about explaining them in the context of the evolution of action cinema. He’s not some above-it-all asshole; he clearly loves the genre. The only part of the Face/Off article that seems overly condescending to me is the reluctance to admit that Cage/Travolta’s wildly entertaining performances could ever be considered “good”. Which is kind of understandable; that kind of peak mega-acting transcends the traditional notions of good/bad acting.

  185. Creepy and awesome and the same time: The animatronic Cage & Travolta that Kevin Yagher built for the movie.

  186. CJ, I love that Vern was blown away by that because I thought it was common knowledge how they did that effect.

  187. I don’t even remember the movie good enough to know if they actually look fake in it (as some guy on Twitter claimed), but in that Instagram video, I had to look twice at them and read the caption to figure out what I’m looking at.

  188. There are definitely a couple of shots in the film that looks like dummies or prostethic, but I had no idea to the level in which they actully created animatronic puppety fo the actors. Crazy!.

  189. Wow the fact that they have held up so well after 20+ years is pretty badass.

  190. It looks real enough. Its not like those old Arnold heads from the 80’s.

  191. Happy birthday to you
    Happy birthday to you
    Happy birthday dear FACE/OFF

  192. Shit. 20 years, almost half my life, of this existing in our world.

  193. Seems like yesterday I was walking into that Loews theater on the basement of the Virgin Megastore ready to expose my brain to Woo Zone USA feat. Operatic turns by Cage and Travolta and have it completely blown away.

    The obvious stunt guys flying during the boat explosion is still one of the greatest laughs my best friend and I ever shared in a theater. Happy Birthday you little brilliant piece of late 90s excess done right.

  194. I’ve lived more of my life with Face/Off than before. That’s heavy.

  195. Broddie, I never understood how nobody thought to redo that part. However, if you watch it again you’ll notice it’s clear stunt guys doing 90% of the action through the whole movie. It’s actually really hilarious that they are barely attempting to hide this.

  196. Wasn’t that the Hong Kong way? Let the stunt doubles be seen to honor their dangerous work.

    I love it and respect their ability to suspend disbelief. It really doesn’t interrupt the flow of the drama at all.

  197. I agree Fred, and love it too! In this scene there’s like 3 metres of visible wire attached to the stunt guy, but it’s freakin awesome the way it’s shot – the energy of Cage grappling with another guy, then the stunt guy running in slo-mo before he gets shot and pulled back against a wall, stunt wires flopping everywhere. And I love the little shout he gives as he’s flying through the air!

  198. My mom rented FACE/OFF when it came out on video but unfortunately it was all a little too much for me to handle at 8 years old, the only thing I really remember from that initial viewing is Dominique Swain’s panties.

    later I watched it as a teen and thought that it was entertaining but also “pretty bad”, only recently have I managed to come around to the movie and appreciate it’s awesomeness fully.

    I think it’s because it is a movie that doesn’t take place in anything resembling reality and it takes a certain mindset to get in the movie’s groove, but it also helps to remember that it’s directed by John Woo, yeah it stars American actors but it’s still a foreign sensibility and that’s another secret to getting on the movie’s wavelength.

  199. Gave F/O a 20th anniversary viewing last night, and it only grew more and more in greatness. One of my favorite sequences is the shootout at Cassavettes pad after Cage-as-Archer escapes from prison. Troy’s son Adam is given headphones during the carnage, and Somewhere Over The Rainbow plays on the soundtrack. Such a beautiful, operatic only-Woo-could-pull-it-off scene. And I need to give Gina Gershon proper respect for being a beautiful badass in the midst of all the slo-mo glory of bullets and acrobatics. She’s looks gorgeous in the Woo Zone.

    Would love to have had the studio release a special edition with more behind the scenes stuff and a possible remaster, but no dice. Oh, and I always liked the score but only just discovered it was a Hans Zimmer one!

  200. Image: Adrian Chen Movie Info: cityonfire.com | Movie News & Developments

    Found on Google from adrianchenmovie.blogspot.com

    According to this article, Woo’s upcoming MANHUNT is a remake of a 1976 Japanese film. I must seek it out.

  201. Do we have a proper trailer and release date yet?

  202. I answered my own question, the release date isn’t until Feb. 2018 in China.

  203. Shit-hot (and colorful) new poster for MANHUNT.

    Mastor Troy - Google+

    Mastor Troy - Google+

  204. I watched it again for the 1st time in ages. I’m on the “he should have kept the face” side. Or at least they should have cut to credits as he’s about to get the procedure re-done. As it is, I found it really unsatisfying. You see Travolta being an asshole for most of the movie, it’s weird to have him return as the good guy at the end. Besides, Archer-with-Castor’s-face seems to be a better person than Archer-with-Archer’s-face anyway.

  205. I’ve been on this website long enough to consider you all friends, even family. So I must confide in you my deep dark secret I’ve been carrying since 1997 – Face/Off is my least favorite American John Woo movie. (Ok, that’s not true, MI:2 was my least favorite until last year when I rewatched it and surprisingly enjoyed it). Yes, I like Paycheck and Windtalkers more than this movie. What the fuck is wrong with me.

    So I rewatched it last night, hoping to rectify this situation, and yeah, it’s better than I remember but I still don’t really like it. It’s Woo’s campiest and wackiest movie by far, and is chock full of lots and lots of intentional comedy, but it also hits some of Woo’s darkest places – I know that dichotomy is exactly what people love about this movie, but it just keeps me uninvolved at arms’ length. It’s like Tyler Perry’s special brand of Tonal Whiplash, but with an action movie. The plot constantly undermines itself – like when Cage escapes prison and *gasp* it turns out he’s on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean, complete with emotional “noooo!!!!” music and dramatic wide helicopter shot, but then he just jumps off the side and swims to shore offscreen (I read the screenwriter’s comments above and appreciate they at least tried to write a proper escape sequence). Or at the end when Travolta cuts up his own face out of spite – and then the very next scene the face is ok – it’s like why even bring up these “how are they going to get out of this?” situations if you just solve them offscreen with no consequence?

    In fact, the whole thing feels underdeveloped and skimmed over -at 2 hr. 20 min, the movie needed to be either a lot shorter or a lot longer. Not saying I want an HBO miniseries, but almost every fascinating idea the plot brings up goes nowhere. Troy (as Archer) has to visit the grave of the child he murdered. That’s an incredible idea for a scene. The camera stays on Travolta’s face, but what is he thinking? If he feels regret over it, it doesn’t come through, and doesn’t manifest itself in any way whatsoever later. Archer (as Troy) has to hang out with a bunch of seedy criminals, some of which he put away. Again, great idea ripe with dramatic potential, and I guess the movie’s telling us he’s bonding with them or something, but then he doesn’t seem to give a shit when Nick Cassavetes dies. He does gain sympathy for Gina Gershon, even though he just saw her mow down a bunch of his cop friends with a machine gun in the prior scene, but ok. (In fact, Gershon’s subplot is one of the few things that is developed and has a payoff – when she redeems herself and takes a bullet for Joan Allen(!) at the end, I found myself unexpectedly moved.) The movie kinda wants it both ways where it seems to hint that Archer’s losing it and turning to the dark side (like when he starts a prison riot that gets a whole bunch of cops killed), and Troy has some good in him (like when he saves Archer’s daughter from a rapist), but then it just reverts back to black and white/good and evil shootouts and ‘splosions at the end. Don’t get me started on the “Well, you killed my son so I’ll take your son who looks just like him and call him by the wrong name and my family’s completely cool with this”. Or the face-wiping hand motion thing which I thought only happened once or twice but I’m pretty sure happens about 10 times in this movie.

    Cage and Travolta are both fun, but for the most part, they act nothing like each other. They act like “Crazy Nicolas Cage” and “Bad Guy from Broken Arrow”, respectively. The one exception is of course the prison cafeteria fight, where you can almost see Archer’s wheels turning as he frantically panics and wonders WWNCD (What would Nicolas Cage Do??) and proceeds to do an over-the-top Cage Freakout in front of everyone. It’s a glorious scene that works on a dramatic, thematic, and meta level. It’s too bad the movie never reaches those highs again.

  206. Not sure how to feel about this one:

    Adam Wingard Directing Face/Off Follow-Up

    He'll be taking faces... off. Head to Empire for more.

  207. That’s, what, four straight remakes in row for this guy? It seems like only yesterday when I thought he was a promising new voice for original horror. I didn’t expect him to immediately turn into Simon West.

  208. For whatever it’s worth, he posted that he’s making “a direct sequel” (and called FACE/OFF “a perfect movie” that he would never “reimagine.”) I’m skeptical because John Woo, but now more intrigued.

  209. I know EXACTLY how to feel about this:

    Whoever’s involved in this “sequel” can fuck their faces…off.

    The stench from the rotting corpses of both remakes (POINT BREAK, TOTAL RECALL) and sequels (THE PREDATOR, ROAD HOUSE 2: LAST CALL) to beloved and cult action classics is still too pungent for shit like this to even be contemplated let alone attempted.

    FACE/OFF occupies a hallowed spot of mythic greatness in my mind and I will not have it fucked with.

  210. The trajectory of “promising young directors” over the last 15 years of so:
    1) Make a lowish budget debut film. People love it, they’re talking about you!I
    2) Make 1-3 more films around the same budget, they love them, you’re an auteur now! Who’s to say you’re not the equal of Coppola in the 70s? Someone, probably, but they’re not going to.
    3) Make you big budget film, a part of a big franchise probably. People like it but they aren’t talking about you so much.
    4) Make your big budget follow up. It doesn’t hit quite as well, people are staring to question their earlier enthusiasm.
    5) Keep trying to make State 4 over and over again, but it will work this time damn it! People now consider State 1-2 flukes, if they remember them at all

    And sometimes they go straight from 1-3.

  211. Pacman2.0 — if it makes you feel better, Adam Wingard’s career took a slightly different trajectory, inasmuch as his first four micro-budget films all suck, but each suck slightly less than the previous one, and he graduated from micro-budget to low budget for two legit good genre movies (and one widely hated one at around the same budget!) before he immediately sold out and committed himself entirely to anonymous franchise sequels and remakes.

  212. Interesting.

    I feel BLAIR WITCH was probably his Step 3 moment, even if it doesn’t tick all of the relevant boxes (including budget and no one liking it all that much).

  213. I should say I don’t blame the directors for taking this path. It’s one of the few paths left for them.

  214. I really don’t begrudge these filmmakers taking big franchise jobs while they can. It doesn’t last forever and it’s a sandbox they must’ve dreamed of playing in. This was going to happen anyway (as a remake) so I’d rather it happen with the You’re Next/The Guest guys as a sequel. They can always go back to low budget edgy movies with the clout of the studio system behind them.

    Maybe not all filmmakers have big budget original ideas like Nolan. Or maybe they do but they want to do this first.

    Simon and I were in film school together when Face/Off came out. This is surreal.

  215. Look, I think we can all agree that we never wanted or needed a FACE/OFF sequel. And I have not one shred of interest in anything this guy has made since THE GUEST (this is the first I’ve even heard of a new Blair Witch!). But I did love THE GUEST and am mildly intrigued by this news. It’s going to be either mind-bogglingly terrible or sneakily great. And Vern will obviously take the bullet to find out which so it doesn’t really cost us anything does it?

  216. If the schtick is two actors with a bit of personality playing each other I could get interested.

  217. What’s strange to me about Wingard’s ascension to the A-list is that the only two movies he made that anybody likes were distinctive because of their scripts, not his direction, which is perfectly fine but not exactly visionary. (YOU’RE NEXT, in fact, is good DESPITE his sloppy work, not because of it.) I appreciate that Wingard spent his time in the indie horror trenches and worked his way up, steadily improving as he went along, so I don’t begrudge him these paycheck gigs, but if you ask me, Simon Barrett is the real brains behind that partnership. I’m not sure why he’s not the one getting all the blockbuster offers. Or maybe he has and he’s just not interested. I see he has his own directorial debut in the works (SEANCE, some unfortunately generic-looking Ouija board thing that hopefully he put some kind of twist on) so maybe he’ll pull a Leigh Whannell on us.

  218. I thought Barrett was writing FACE/OFFS? Anyway I don’t know what it’s about but I hope it has a part where Castor Troy has set up express face switching technology and he goes through a series of them so that various actors we enjoy get a shot at playing Castor Troy.

  219. He is, but he didn’t get get bumped up to big-paycheck hackery like Wingard did. It seems to me like Hollywood just sees him as Wingard’s go-to and not a talent in his own right. Either way, I’m glad he’s back in the fold.

  220. I have had a conversation once with Simon Barrett about that Kitamura sniper film and he is super smart.

    My guess is that the film is going to lean heavily into the horror aspect of the face swapping technology and it won’t be like a crazy action flm because Wingard could never ever be Woo. His one big gun fight in The Guest is pretty pedestrian.

  221. Both Barrett and Wingard have had pretty bizarre trejectories in their careers. Very low budget roots, strange dabblings in Mumblecore (and Mumblegore, the horror offshoot), acting in other obscure directors work and so on and so forth…

    I honestly think it’s the V/H/S series that is their leap. It didn’t seem so huge to me at the time, but it does seem everyone involved made a major leap right after that. The READY OR NOT, soon to be making SCREAM 5 guys had a segment in that as well.

    One Barret scripted and Wingard starring (and Joe Swanberg directed) movie I really liked is 24 EXPOSIERS. Sort of a Giallo style murder movie, that goes off the beaten path and turns pretty meta weird. Barrett plays a detective (which he was in real life for a time) who quits detecting and sort of joins the schnanigans. Wingard is a fetish photograph who is the prime suspect as the killer. Strange, strange movie.

    All in all I love their career. Can’t say I love all their movies…but they keep truckin’. They are genre enthusiasts, weird experimentalists and persistent as hell. I love THE GUEST, really liked YOU’RE NEXT and even liked the BLAIR WITCH weird sequel. Some of their early projects leave a lot to be desired, but I actually really like that it’s sort of difficult to connect A to B with them. I’m up for whatever they make together or independantly from each other…no matter the outcome.

  222. I see that imdb lists Van Damme and Seagal as some of the names considered for the original. I guess it’s not too late. Or?

  223. Well, this looks promising: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBnTqn0lBDA

    Please let them be using Ode to Joy in the movie and it not just be a tease for the trailer.

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