Guys, I have to make a terrible confession. Have you wondered all these years why Nicolas Cage has a film career? It’s me, people, it’s all me. I’m the sole moviegoer keeping Cage in business. It’s sad to admit, but my name is Caitlin and I’m addicted to bad Nicolas Cage action flicks. (Right now, Fletch over at Blog Cabins is probably booking a plane ticket to come beat me senseless.)
John Travolta plays Sean Archer, a determined, hardworking FBI agent determined to bring down the vicious criminal that killed his son, a certain Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). After finally bringing him down, the FBI discovers that there’s still one last dastardly plot Castor has dreamed up that he’s already set in motion and there’s only one ridiculously outlandish way to save the day. Sean Archer must have his face switched with Castor Troy. Insult to injury, I should think, but of course! Sean Archer is a total Boy Scout, so he has to do the right thing — at the further expense of everything he holds dear and true. What a hero, right?
There’s really no other way to describe this movie than absurdly over the top. Castor’s brother is named Pollux (haha, get it?); Nicolas Cage starts out the movie by planting some sort of crazy bomb in a convention center dressed as a priest of all things and carrying gold plated guns; the prison in this movie is something you have to see to believe. It’s a quasi-futuristic place with robotic, magnetic boots that control the prison population that’s located on an oil rig looking place in the middle of the ocean. So…yeah. It looks like a fun place to spend an eternity and a half, right? Kinda bleak, kinda depressing, kinda isolated. It’s party city up there.
Meanwhile, while Sean’s taken Castor’s place in prison to get information out of the neurotic, nerdy Pollux, the real Castor wakes up without a face, which would probably really ruin anyone’s day. Pissing off the psycho nutjob and taking his face? Not a good idea. So Castor goes…a little nutso and takes Sean Archer’s face, leading to a nice little switcheroo that screws everyone up. Well, not until after he gets a new face lasered on and kills everyone remotely involved with the face-transplanting.
There’s a reason Nic Cage excels at playing neurotic and/or insane, psychotic characters. I personally speculate that Mr. Cage might be a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, if you catch my drift, but I could be wrong. So when you throw old NIcolas a curveball — say, playing a straightlaced, normal guy that’s out of his league — he doesn’t know what else to do with it than ridiculously, shamefully overplay it. Here? He doesn’t disappoint.
The scene where Archer wakes up with Castor’s face is nearly priceless. You’d better not be drinking anything while watching it or whatever liquid you’re imbibing is going straight up your nose. Cage has a completely unbelievable freak-out attack that’s beyond description, complete with stupid facial mugging, some of the most forced, fake crying I’ve ever heard, and ridiculous cries of “Eff you, eff you!” thrown at his superiors as he breaks a mirror. It’s like angst overload, Nicolas Cage style which basically means Cage plays it like a thirteen year old girl would play it. Academy Award winner right there, folks.
Cage quite simply can’t play it straight to save his life. When you’re making John Travolta, king of the unintentionally comic overacting, look downright Oscar-worthy, it’s pretty bad. Travolta does play a rather despicable bad guy. I love watching Travolta play bad dudes because he hams it up just enough instead of taking the Cage route, which is kind of like watching a monkey on speed chase a banana for hours on end.
The rest of the film is devoted to the two taking bizarre, strange means to get their respective faces back, culminating in a final battle of good versus evil with the trademark John Woo hallmarks splashed in.
So…after having gone through all the bad, why do I like this movie so darn much?
To tell you the truth, I’m really not quite sure. Perhaps it’s the scene where Nicolas Cage dances around as a priest and sings with a kid’s choir after planting a bomb that will destroy Los Angeles; perhaps it’s just the general feeling of “it’s so bad it becomes awesome” that pervades the movie; perhaps it’s the random Joe Bob Briggs cameo (Aww, Joe Bob! I miss Monstervision on TNT!).
Even if it wasn’t intended to be what it is, Face/Off’s a cheesy action flick that for some odd reason, never gets old. It stays awesomely bad and is just as funny the first time as the last time you see it.
After years of having seen it, even Nicolas Cage’s vamping doesn’t get old — and that’s saying something.