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Some movies require a greater suspension of disbelief than others. FACE/OFF ($30) is a movie with a plot device that is so outlandish, that requires it audience to lock their disbelief in a box, and then throw said box into the deepest chasm at the bottom of the ocean. This is not to say that FACE/OFF is unentertaining, quite the contrary- this movie rocks; however, the movie strings itself on plot device is just so far beyond the realm of medical science fiction, that a brain transplant might have been a more elegant and simple way for the writers to go. Sure, facial transplants have since been done successfully, since FACE/OFF first appeared, but everything else that is supposedly done in FACE/OFF to transform John Travolta into Nicolas Cage and vice versa certainly make the concept of brain transplants appear more believable. I know FACE/OFF is only a movie, but sometimes just rolling my eyes and shaking my head at the screen isn’t quite enough. Now stepping down from my soapbox...

FACE/OFF opens with the failed assassination of F.B.I. Agent Sean Archer (Travolta) by his nemesis, international terrorist for hire and confirmed sociopath, Castor Troy (Cage). Although Archer survives the attempt on his life, the assassination does claim a victim- Archer’s young son, whom the agent was holding in his arms. Years pass; and we come to a point where Archer is finally able to bring down Troy. However, the capture comes after the terrorist plants a bomb that will take out a big chunk of the city’s populace. Unfortunately, getting the bomb’s whereabouts from Troy is out of the question, since the terrorist is comatose. The bureau’s solution… an undercover assignment: Archer will assume the terrorist’s identity by means of having Troy’s face grafted onto his skull, and then he’ll convince the terrorist’s imprisoned brother to divulge the location of the bomb. Sure sounds simple enough to this reviewer.

Of course, this simple plan experiences a hiccup, when Troy awakens from his coma. Troy immediately has Archer’s face grafted onto his skull and then kills everyone that knew about Archer’s secret undercover assignment. As you might expect, our hero has a little trouble convincing anyone, who he really is- even after he breaks out of prison. This leaves the villain leading the charge to capture or kill our escaped hero… gunfights, chases, explosions and general mayhem follow. The cast of FACE/OFF also includes Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain, Nick Cassavetes, Harve Presnell, Colm Feore, John Carroll Lynch, CCH Pounder, Robert Wisdom and Margaret Cho. Of course, with John Woo behind the camera and John Travolta & Nicolas Cage in front, FACE/OFF has talent to spare. Woo works his magic on the film’s action, turning the gunfights into ballets, while Travolta and Cage gleefully make their transitions from good guy to bad guy and back again.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made FACE/OFF available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Although not perfect, Paramount has provided FACE/OFF with a very strong 1080p presentation. The image is very sharp and sports terrific definition in the areas of textures, individual hairs, flaws in the actor’s skin and even five o’clock shadow. One downside of the hi-def transfer is the fact that the viewer can clearly see every time a stunt double steps in for one of the stars. Colors are strongly saturated and the flesh tones are generally appealing. Blacks are deep and the whites are completely stable. Contrast is generally smooth, plus the picture produces some very nice shadow detail. The elements from which FACE/OFF was transferred do show more blemishes than one is likely to see on a new film, but they never distract one from the movie itself. There is some graininess to the presentation, but is not out of line for a late nineties movie.

FACE/OFF is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 6.1 channel DTS-ES soundtrack. There is plenty of action and gunplay throughout the course of FACE/OFF, so the sound design is very aggressive and the track is highly active. Sound effects bounce all over the soundstage, with all of the outlying channels being exceedingly well utilized. The bass channel is deep and percussive, which enhances the gunfire and explosions. Fidelity is great; both the music and sound effects are pretty impressive. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. An English Dolby Digital EX track is also provided, as are French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. FACE/OFF comes with two running Audio Commentaries; the first is with director John Woo and writers Mike Webb, and Michael Colleary, while the second features Mike Webb and Michael Colleary again. The Light And Dark: Making Face/Off is an extensive five-part documentary on the making of the film that runs a total of one hour and four minutes. John Woo: A Life In Pictures clocks in at twenty six minutes and looks at the career of the director who made the transition from Hong Kong Cinema to American films. Nine minutes of Deleted Scenes & an Alternate Ending with optional director’s comments are also provided. A Theatrical Trailer closes out the supplements.

While I do have issues with the science fiction elements of the story, there is no denying that FACE/OFF is a killer action movie in John Woo’s undeniable grand style. Paramount’s Blu-ray presentation is quite impressive and is certain to please fans. Recommended.



Face/Off [Blu-ray] (1997)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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