Face/Off John Woo

Face/Off John Woo

Sometimes the mind plays tricks on you. I could have sworn that Face/Off was the smart, exciting actioner I thought I saw when it came out in 1997. Turns out it’s a poorly-written, oafishly-directed clunker whose longevity is as inconceivable as my initial assessment of its value. John Travolta and Nicolas Cage are the humourless fed and the frivolous assassin, respectively, who tussle in the opening with the agent coming out on top. To find the location of a chemical bomb in L.A., it’s necessary for Travolta to surgically swap faces with Cage in order to ferret out the info. But of course, the baddie nefariously gets the goodie’s face, with all sorts of complications ensuing while the bullets fly. This is technically John Woo’s best American movie, by which I mean it’s the only one that wasn’t compromised by a million other hands, but there’s no getting around the director’s painful literal mindedness, the script’s plot holes and complete lack of credibility. Though a "both sides now” view of overzealous cops and damaged criminals lurks at the heart of the film, it’s buried in theatrics so cheeseball that you can barely notice the possibilities. Still, its continued popularity managed to justify this tenth anniversary two-disc special edition. Disc one features two commentaries, both with writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary; John Woo makes an appearance on one but they cover much of the same territory, with the participants noting script changes and cooing over bad ideas. Seven deleted scenes with optional commentary round out the disc, with an alternate ending even lamer than the one in the final cut. Disc two features two documentaries: an extended, "lovey-dovey” "making of” that lavishes more fawning over the film’s dubious merits and a shorter, and much better, interview with Woo on his origins and career. (Paramount)