My Buddy is a Cage – Face/Off (1997)

I know, I know. I came up short last week. Things got a bit hectic with the new job; these animals ain’t gonna masturbate themselves. To make up for it, I’m doing back-to-back posts today and tomorrow. Excitement!
That brings me to Face/Off, the movie with an unnecessary slash in its title. Whether it’s this or Se7en, the mid-90s were probably when all this shoving things into names fad started. No originality these days, I tell ya. Looking at you, Scre4m.
When serial terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) accidentally kills the son of Special Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta), Archer vows for revenge. Years later, he gets that chance after tracking down Troy’s latest bomb plot to level Los Angeles. Although Troy is gravely injured in the ensuing firefight, this film is more complex than other 90s action flicks like Bad Boys, where everything is simply tied up with explosions and Martin Lawrence quips. Troy’s incarcerated brother and partner in crime, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), refuses to reveal when his comatosed brother’s bomb will go off, so Archer agrees to undergo experimental surgery take his face off (!) and replace it with Troy’s to discover the brothers’ plans before the explosion reduces LA to an even bigger geographic butthole. Whew. While Archer-now-as-Troy works his magic on Pollux, Troy wakes up and surgically assumes the mantle of Troy-now-as Archer, invading the professional and private life of his newly imprisoned nemesis. Naturally.
My fun-loathing self would have a lot to nitpick here, but even I can’t be a Scrooge about this ridiculous premise when Face/Off so clearly doesn’t take itself seriously. The concept alone — the notion that one can assume another person’s physical features, right down to bone structure — would be asinine if the screenwriters weren’t having so much fun with it. And let’s not forget about the director, John Woo. I enjoy his legendary Hong Kong action piece, Hard-Boiled, and I definitely understand why he is involved with this project. The film is admirable in taking a crazy premise and showing how society’s stark lines become obfuscated because of it. It’s a trope that’s been played out time and time again, yet so rarely to its fullest, bat-shit crazy extent.
Speaking of bat-shit crazy, let’s not forget John Travolta aaand Nicolas Cage are in this thing, and fifteen years later, the parallels between their careers and acting choices aren’t a whole lot different. Name Travolta’s last good role? Either way, saying it’s a complete riot watching both actors ape themselves would be a huge understatement. Take Archer-as-Troy’s first foray into prison life as a testament to that:
I misspoke, that’s actually Nic Cage playing John Travolta playing Nic Cage. Despite Cage accepting this role only because the majority of his screentime was as the protagonist, we get some solid scenery-chewing here. There are a slew of over-the-top cackles and a sequence where he orders an undercover fed to suck his tongue. Without a doubt though, Castor Troy’s grand exit from LAX as a dancing, ass-grabbing preacher who spins and conducts his way through the opening credits takes the proverbial cake:

When you know enough to refer to Handel’s “Messiah” by its actual title, you can grab as many rear ends as you want. I almost wonder if Cage would have been better off playing Sean Archer first. He’s so magnetic as a villain. I think that’s a good thing…

I will say Face/Off offers a fantastic solution to any parents with the unfortunate circumstance of grieving for a deceased child.

MILD/SPOILERS
: It’s eventually revealed that Castor Troy shares a bastard son with ex-girlfriend Gina Gershon. Archer-as-Troy warms up to the child and in the film’s final minutes, we get a surgically reconstructed Travolta/Face along with quite a demented ending. For Archer isn’t coming home alone. He’s brought newly orphaned Adam with him, as in the child of the man he ran down and murdered in a speed boat. The offbeat reactions Joan Allen and their daughter give are priceless, though I’m of the opinion that had they scripted more of this out, it would’ve been even better:

‘Dead son? What dead son? Why my son is standing right here!’ *pats head*

For tomorrow we’ll be getting dangerous. Bangkok Dangerous.

* * * * *

Want more Cage? You got it.

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