Face/Off (1997) - 2-Disc Special Collector's Edition

Genre(s): Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Paramount || R - 140 minutes - $19.99 || September 11, 2007
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2007-09-01


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: John Woo
Writer(s): Mike Werb & Michael Colleary (written by)
Cast: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain, Nick Cassavetes, Colm Feore


Theatrical Release Date: June 27, 1997


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director & Writers' Commentary
  • Writers' Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Light and the Dark: Making Face/Off
  • John Woo: A Life In Pictures
  • Original Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (6.1 DTS-ES), English (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX), French (Dolby Surround 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

If you don't know by now, Face/Off is about FBI agent Sean Archer (Travolta) who is forced to switch faces with his archnemesis Castor Troy (Cage). Things go awry when Castor wakes up from a coma and takes Archer's face and assumes his life.

Face/Off is easily one of my all-time favorite action films and arguably John Woo’s last great film (and ditto for Nicholas Cage as well). The majority of Woo’s American films are silly in terms of style with doves inexplicitly showing up in the oddest places or coattails flowing off the sides. These visual elements are present in Face/Off but thanks to a superb screenplay/story, they work well together. It is style AND substance working hand-in-hand. That’s been the problem with Woo’s movies is his style has remained the same while the stories he uses greatly decline in quality (Mission: Impossible II comes to mind). Mind you, M:I 2 had some fine action scenes, but the story was lacking.

It also helps having two A-class actors in John Travolta and Nicholas Cage, actors who haven’t exactly had bomb-free careers. Obviously, at this time, now 10-years, Cage had found his niche in the action genre after The Rock and the Con Air. Based on movies like Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Matchstick Men and World Trade Center, Cage does have talent but it’s when he’s asked to go over the top that he shows his limits (best examples: Ghost Rider or The Wicker Man). Yet for Face/Off while he does go overboard, it melds with the character and the overall flow of the film.

As with Cage, John Travolta’s career has also had its up and downs, though Travolta’s falls weren’t as steep (although Battlefield Earth was pretty low). Of course, I’ve enjoyed some of his more “interesting” choices from 2001’s Swordfish to 2007’s comedy Wild Hogs. Are they masterpieces even in their own genres? Nope. At least they entertained me. Unlike Cage, Travolta as shown a wider range in the roles he can play from musicals to dramas to action.

Nevertheless, forget about the acting. Forget about the screenplay and story. What makes Face/Off so damn good is the action! Even though Woo goes over the top with the stunts (especially during the climax), it’s an absolute blast to watch. Now, the story and acting help propel this 2 hour plus movie along rather than be bogged down like some action flicks today (the one’s where your ears are ringing after a 20-minute action sequence).

I don’t think I’m being too bold to say Face/Off is one of the best action movies ever made. No, it’s not one of the best movies, but among its peers, it is heads and shoulders above the others.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Director & Writers’ Commentary - This first track has director John Woo alongside writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. It’s tough to figure out what Woo is saying sometimes but between him and the writers, they provide various info on the script, how it came to the big screen after so many years and other bits of trivia.

Writers’ Commentary - Don’t be fooled, a lot of this track was actually edited into the first track, so there’s more than a little redundancy. From what I could tell, this is still a little more expansive as some things were not used on the other track.

Deleted Scenes (8:19) - The set includes 7 deleted scenes including, as described by John Woo in the optional commentary, a “Hitchcockian” ending. Lame is more like it and would’ve surely sunk the movie IMO. The other scenes are all right and includes an extended opening where Cage kills a janitor who asks one question too many.

The Light and the Dark: Making Face/Off (63:48) - This five-part featurette combines some behind-the-scenes footage with interviews with the cast and crew.

“Science Fiction/Human Emotion” - Takes us through the early process of the project and the various people involved. The script fist went to Joel Silver and Warner Brothers before going into turnaround and they even approached John Woo to direct before turning it down because he was still new to Hollywood at the time.

“Cast/Characters” - Nicholas Cage and John Travolta’s stuff is from publicity in ’97 but the crew including John Woo, the producers and writers are all new. Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola and Gina Gershon also provide new interviews (I could tell since their footage was in anamorphic widescreen).

“Woo/Hollywood” - Focus turns to director John Woo in the eyes of the cast and crew about his trademarks and on-set personality. The cast members especially give interesting accounts about the director. This section then merges into production design, stunt coordination and the other duties.

“Practical/Visual Effects” - Fairly elaborate look at the effects of Face/Off with more archive footage and storyboards played with new interviews with cast and crew. One interesting thing brought up is during the climax fight, you forget that those kind of scenes today probably would’ve been done on a green screen instead of on location like it was here.

“Future/Past” - Everything gets wrapped up between Woo’s direction, the ending and final thoughts on the movie itself.

John Woo: A Life in Pictures (26:07) - The director’s life story is told through pictures and from Woo himself. From his childhood with neighborhood gangs, rise in Hong Kong cinema (The Killers, Hard-Boiled) to his arrival in Hollywood, this is a fascinating and touching featurette.

The DVD also includes the original theatrical trailer. Sure, it’s a minor extra in the grand scheme of things, but for especially older titles, it’s kind of a trip down memory lane for those of us who would remember seeing them in theaters or on TV.

The entire “Making Face/Off” featurette is what makes this a true “Special Collector’s Edition” and kudos to Paramount for releasing a solid re-release.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

Face/Off is presented in anamorphic widescreen and looks fantastic. I dug out my old 1998 copy and made a couple comparison shots and the difference is quite noticeable. Before the entire film had a darker look and now everything is a bit lighter especially the skin tones. I don’t know the process they went through, like if they went back to the original film or what, but kudos to Paramount.

You can check out my screen comparisons here and here (opens new window).

Not to be outdone, a window-shaking DTS (6.1) track has also been added, to go along with a standard Dolby 5.1 mix. I live in a quiet neighborhood so I was a bit conscience on how loud it would get but man oh man, was it awesome. Crank up your surround sound and wait to be blown away with each action sequence. Dolby 5.1 is certainly OK but if you want to show off your entertainment system, pop this baby in!



.::OVERALL::.

Paramount Home Entertainment has released probably one of the best titles under their “Special Collector’s Edition” series. Between the fine selection of extras to the vastly improved audio and video, this DVD is necessary for any action fan. Of course, the movie itself is also excellent, but it makes the DVD itself worth every penny. I can say with complete confidence to those who already own the previous release, chuck it and buy this one.