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John Woo
John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen
Writing Credits:
Mike Werb, Michael Colleary

In order to foil a terrorist plot, an FBI agent undergoes a facial transplant surgery and assumes the identity and physical appearance of a terrorist, but the plan turns from bad to worse when the same terrorist impersonates the FBI agent.

Rated R.

Box Office:
$80 million.
Opening Weekend
$23,387,530 on 2621 screens.
Domestic Gross

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby 5.1 EX
English DTS 6.1 ES
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 139 min.
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 6/3/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director John Woo and Writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary
• Audio Commentary with Writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary
• 7 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary>:
• “The Light and the Dark” Documentary
• “A Life In Pictures” Documentary
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Face/Off [Blu-Ray] (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 24, 2020)

If I needed to choose the Worst Trailer Ever, I might select the teaser for 1997’s Face/Off. Rarely have I seen a clip that so severely turned me off on a flick. My then-girlfriend still wanted to see it, though, and she eventually convinced me to do so as well.

Man, did I feel happy she did! Despite that atrocious promo, the movie itself turned out to be thrilling and exciting.

More than 20 years after that initial screening, I can’t say that Face/Off still rocks me like it did in 1997, but the flick continues to provide a cool experience.

Face/Off starts with a prologue set about six years prior to its main events. We see arch-criminal Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) shoot law enforcement agent Sean Archer (John Travolta). Archer escapes with a superficial wound, but the bullet passes through him and kills his young son Mike.

Once we come to “present day”, we find that Archer continued on Castor’s trail for that entire period. After a violent sequence, Archer apprehends Castor’s techie brother Pollux (Alessandro Nivola) after the apparent death of Castor.

With Pollux in custody, Archer attempts to find the location of a nasty biological weapon planted somewhere in Los Angeles. Pollux won’t spill the beans, so authorities offer an unorthodox solution.

It turns out that the accident didn’t kill Castor after all, so he remains comatose but alive. Dr. Malcolm Walsh (Colm Feore) states that he can swap faces between Castor and Archer and allow the latter to perfectly impersonate the former.

Reluctantly, Archer agrees to do this, so he enters Erehwon Prison to cozy up to Pollux. After some missteps, this succeeds, but in the meantime, the real Castor snaps back to life.

Understandably cheesed by the absence of his face, he forces Walsh to turn him into Archer. Castor then kills Walsh and all of Archer’s cronies who know of the secret mission.

Firmly in place as Archer, Castor takes over his life. That means he fools Archer’s wife Eve (Joan Allen) and sullen teen daughter Jamie (Dominique Swain).

In Archer’s guise, he stages many events that elevate his status in his agency and make him a new star. The real Archer, however, has to execute an escape from Erehwon so he can reclaim his old life and recapture the real Castor.

Movies often stretch what we’ll accept from technology, but Face/Off pushes the limits to the extreme. However, as absurd as the concept of face switching may sound, the film actually makes it almost sound plausible. After some brief moments of wariness, the topic becomes a non-issue quickly, and it never really distracts from the rest of the flick.

This happens because director John Woo pulls off such great action. He brings a terrific sense of style to the material and moves things at a brisk pace. Woo still allots enough time for character development to make the flick work, but the action makes it something special.

In addition, excellent performances help elevate what should have been a silly movie. Travolta and Cage manage to swap personalities but not parody the others.

Travolta probably emulates Cage better than the other way around, but he does get the easier role. Castor’s such a cartoonish figure that Travolta doesn’t have to deal with the same level of nuance. Cage reins in his naturally extravagant tendencies to capture the anguished heart of Archer as well as the crude magnetism of Castor.

Not only do both leads do extremely well in dual roles, but also the supporting performers add depth to the piece. Allen helps anchor the flick with her accurate view of Eve, and Nivola turns a small and caricatured role into something quite memorable. He allows Pollux to be amusing and compelling far beyond the scope of the scripted character.

Parts of Face/Off really do seem cheesy, especially due to some artificial and stilted dialogue. However, the combination of elegant style and excellent performances make it a genuine winner.

The movie also packs a much more substantial emotional punch than the average action film. I don’t know if I can consider Face/Off to be a true classic, but it remains a terrific piece of work.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+ / Bonus A-

Face/Off appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a disappointing transfer.

Sharpness appeared erratic. While much of the movie showed fairly good clarity, edge haloes created distractions and led to a loss of fine detail.

The presence of obvious digital noise reduction also impacted the movie’s accuracy, as the image felt fuzzier and less concise than it should. No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and source flaws remained minor. I detected a handful of tiny specks but that was it, as the majority of the flick was clean.

Colors looked decent. The noise reduction took the shine off of them, though, and made them less impactful than expected.

Blacks were fairly dense and deep, while shadows appeared smooth. Though watchable, the transfer didn’t work nearly as well as it should have.

In terms of audio, Face/Off featured both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES mixes. Both sounded virtually identical, so I noticed no differences between the pair.

The soundfields were solid. Music showed good stereo imaging, while effects appeared well placed and involving.

The elements blended well and moved accurately. The surrounds contributed a lot of unique information, especially during the many action sequences. All the channels received a great workout.

Audio quality worked fine. A couple of edgy lines materialized, but the speech usually was concise and distinctive.

Music showed nice range and delineation, while effects appeared lively and tight. No issues with distortion occurred, and low-end response appeared tight and deep. The two mixes provided very good audio from start to finish.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the Special Collector’s Edition DVD from 2006? Audio remained identical, as both used the same mixes. I docked the Blu-ray points because it should’ve included lossless material.

As for the visuals, I suspect the used the same transfer. What looked good to me on a 36-inch tube TV in 2006 didn’t hold up well on a 65-inch widescreen set in 2019, and even with the improvements that come from Blu-ray vs. DVD, this wasn’t a major upgrade.

Would I prefer to watch the Blu-ray instead of the DVD? Definitely, but this was nonetheless a flawed presentation. The movie could use a new transfer.

The Blu-ray repeats the DVD’s extras, and we find two separate audio commentaries. For the first, we hear from director John Woo and writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary as they offer a running, screen-specific track.

They cover what attracted Woo to the project and what he brought to it, working with the actors, script, story and rewrite issues, some stunts, action and effects topics, and a mix of other production subjects.

From start to finish, this commentary provides a nice look at the film. It covers the nuts and bolts of the production as well as some more personal elements. For instance, we learn what “Over the Rainbow” means to Woo.

We find out why there’s a slash in the movie’s title and many other helpful topics. I like this track a lot, as it gives us plenty of fine notes.

Next comes a commentary from Werb and Colleary on their own. This is another running, screen-specific discussion. They cover script, story and rewrites, working with Woo, cast, characters and performances, and a smattering of other production subjects.

Viewed on its own, this is a very good commentary. Viewed as our second track, it’s not so hot. The problem stems from repetition, as we hear many of the same details already discussed in the chat with Woo.

Sure, a few new notes appear, but the vast majority of the material repeats from the first commentary. Some of the remarks are literally identical, as I believe they recorded this piece first and the disc’s producers ported over some bits straight to the Woo commentary.

Since Werb and Colleary are entertaining speakers, the track is still quite fun despite the redundant material. Nonetheless, if you only listen to the piece with Woo, you won’t miss a lot here.

Seven Deleted Scenes fill a total of eight minutes, 26 seconds. We find “Castor Kills the Janitor” (0:36), “Archer Weeps” (1:09), “Childhood Lessons” (1:05), “Hideaway Shootout” (2:04), “Archer Vs. Castor Finale” (2:12), “Will Dad Be Dad Again?” (0:11) and “Alternate Ending” (1:09).

Don’t expect anything substantial here. “Janitor” just reminds us that Castor’s pretty evil, while “Weeps” simply reinforces Archer’s depression about his dead son.

We hear about “Lessons” in the commentaries, and it’s as silly as the writers think it is. “Finale” and “Dad” provide minor extensions to existing scenes, so they don’t bring anything fresh.

The “Ending” is interesting just because it’s a less happy-happy conclusion. That doesn’t mean it’d work better, though. “Hideaway” intrigues because it alters the tone of that sequence.

In the final cut, Adam seems oddly oblivious to the mayhem, while this version makes him more involved. It’s not a massive change, but it’s more logical.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Woo, Werb and Colleary. We get notes about the scenes and learn why they didn’t make the final cut. Some of this material repeats from the main commentaries, but it remains appropriate and helpful here.

Next comes The Light and the Dark: Making Face/Off, a documentary that fills one hour, four minutes, 20 seconds. We hear from Woo, Werb, Colleary, producer Terence Chang, producer Barrie M. Osborne, 1st AD Arthur Anderson, production designer Neil Spisak, weapons coordinator Robert “Rock” Galotti, special makeup effects Kevin Yagher, stunt coordinator Brian Smrz, and actors John Travolta, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, Nicolas Cage, Alessandro Nivola, and Dominique Swain.

The program looks at the script’s origins, inspirations and script development, getting backing and how Woo ended up on the project, cast, characters and performances, Woo’s style on the set and his impact on the production, the film’s guns, stunts and action choreography, production design, storyboards, sets and locations, various effects, and thoughts about the final product.

After two commentaries, I worried that there might not be much left to discuss in a documentary. I’m happy to report that “Light” finds plenty of new details to cover.

The show goes over lots of subjects barely touched in the screenplay/story dominated commentaries, and it even reveals some script facts that don’t appear there; for instance, we learn a little more about the sci-fi elements from the original text. “Light” turns into a really good examination of the film.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we conclude with John Woo: A Life In Pictures. It lasts 26 minute, three seconds and includes notes from Woo, Anderson, Chang, Galotti, Yagher, Smrz, and filmmaker John Carpenter.

“Pictures” looks at Woo’s childhood and early life before it goes through his interest in movies and how he got into that field. From there we follow how he developed into a director, notes about some of his flicks and thoughts about his style and personality.

While not a tremendously in-depth piece, “Pictures” provides a pretty decent overview of Woo’s life and career. We get a nice glimpse of the man, his influences and his style. I’d have liked it to run longer and get into his various flicks to a greater degree, but I think “Pictures” provides a good general take on Woo.

A terrific action flick, Face/Off easily could have turned silly. However, the movie melds excellent action with vivid performances to become something special. The Blu-ray brings mediocre visuals along with very good – though lossy – audio and a nice array of bonus materials. I enjoy the movie, but the transfer could use an update and lossless audio.

To rate this film, visit the original review of FACE/OFF

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