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Directed by John Woo (1997, Paramount)
Starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage

An FBI detective takes on a dead terrorist's face to extract information about a bomb, but the bad guy comes out of his coma and takes the detective's face, effectively switching places with him.



4 stars

November 28th, 1999 on TV

    Man, was that intense!  It was typical of John Woo.  I loved the way the villain moved constantly in slow motion, as funny as it seems.  I don't normally enjoy Nicolas Cage, but he did a great job of playing a maniac and, when he's in the role of the detective, of being desperate and on the edge of manic depression.

Costas, the terrorist, killed Sean's son by accident six years ago.  He was really trying to kill Sean.  The case is finally closed in the opening chase, which is really cool, where Costas is seemingly killed.  But there is a catch.  Costas and his brother planted a bomb in LA somewhere.  Sean takes his face to try and get the information out of Costas' still-living brother.

That part goes really smoothly, but we don't know how smoothly until it is all over.  Unfortunately, Costas wakes up from his coma and finds his face removed.  He suddenly realizes the possibilities of becoming a big FBI agent, and kidnaps the doctor responsible, forces him to transplant Sean's face, then kills everybody who knows Sean is still in prison.

This means, of course, that Sean finds out about all of this (when the fake Sean diffuses the bomb), and has to escape the prison by his own means.  This makes for a really neat escape sequence, where we are not exactly sure how he is going to get out, and actually have doubts about whether he can accomplish it, despite the fact that if he doesn't, then the movie would probably end. 

Suffice it to say that he does, and he makes his way back to LA, and tries to use Costas' own friends and contacts against him.  This leads to chase after chase, gunfight after gunfight, murder, and finally, a shootout in a church. 

This is where I thought the movie should have ended.  It would have been nice and tidy, with an old style finale.  Unfortunately, the movie goes for one last effects filled chase sequence, followed by another face-to-face, where the villain almost escapes yet again.  After the dart gun misfired, I was ready for another chase sequence!

That was a major drawback, as the last sequences did nothing for me.  The second drawback is the obvious one: the face switch.  How the heck did they get all that skin off so nicely?  And with a little suction -thwpt!  We can extract his face!  Hmmm.

But if you can believe that, the rest is easily believable -even the escape from prison.  It was a wonderful action packed movie, in typical John Woo style, but not too clichéd, either.


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