Nicolas Cage in ‘Face/Off’ – The 90s Action Hero We Never Knew We Needed (Part 3)
FACE/OFF (1997): PART 3 OF THE BEIGE VOLVO TRILOGY
Well, here we are. The final chapter to this rip roaring saga of mind boggling action! The screaming spartan warrior known as Nicolas Cage gives us this sprawling epic conclusion to the greatest action trilogy known to movie lovers everywhere. THE BEIGE VOLVO TRILOGY comes to an end! And The Cage Man brings a friend, our old buddy John Travolta with him in the 1997 classic FACE/OFF! Let’s dig in.
But you’re still not having any fun!
After testing out the action waters with enormous success, Cage decided to join forces with arguably the greatest action director of our time: John Woo! A team up only the action movie gods could make possible, the sultan of shout combined awesomenesses (I just made up a word) with the king of two fisted gunfire himself. A dynamic match made in action movie heaven! That’s right. What better way to cap off your epic trilogy of supreme badassness than to be directed by the man who turned action into an art form. His operatic bullet ballets are sheer perfection. He directs like the reincarnation of Sam Peckinpah with a dose of Michelangelo and Fred Astaire. As you can see, I worship John Woo movies. And It all started with a little film called Hard Target…
From John Woo…
You see, Jean-Claude Van Damme was my favorite action star when I was a kid, so I was always hyped up when one of his movies came out. I remember almost having a heart attack when I first saw the trailer for Double Impact. “What?? Two Van Dammes?? This is the best thing ever!” my 7 year old self thought. So when Hard Target came out, I was begging my dad to take me to see it. And it did not disappoint. 9 year old me was completely blown away. But what’s crazy is… even at that age, I knew the action in it was different than other movies. Just in the way it was handled. Extremely precise. Practically surgical precision. The editing. The cinematography. The staging. Sublime in its execution. Next, I saw Hard Boiled. Good lord! Watching Woo in his element is like listening to Queen for the first time. It was like I had never seen action before. Then Broken Arrow, The Killer, and A Better Tomorrow, etc…
I became hooked on his movies. His output became my drug. So when I heard his next movie was going to star the Cage Man, as well as John Travolta, another one of my favorite actors, I became the rocket man and shot straight to the moon! (Pun intended) This was going to be an event like no other. And during June of ‘97, after the awesome fun ride that was Con Air, but also the incredible let down that was Batman & Robin, I was ready for some slam bang action goodness again. And I sure as hell got it! But first, let’s dive into what this sucker’s about…
Wheeee! What a predicament!
Cage plays Castor Troy, a very “eccentric” terrorist who is put into a coma during a confrontation in an airplane hangar with FBI agent Sean Archer, played by Travolta. However, unbeknownst to Archer, Troy has planted a bomb somewhere in LA which is set to go off in a few days. The only person who may have information regarding the bomb is Troy’s imprisoned brother Pollux, who will only speak to his brother Castor. So Archer decides to undergo a procedure that will place Troy’s face upon his, in a covert undercover operation in a state of the art prison to extract the information from Pollux.
Unfortunately, Troy wakes up from his coma, and realizing the situation, has the same procedure done to him with Archer’s face. He also destroys all evidence of who is who, and pretends to be Archer to the FBI and Archer’s estranged family. Now with no way to prove who he really is, Archer must find a way to escape the prison, so he can stop Troy and save his family…
Plan B: Let’s just kill each other
The acting from the two leads here is a scrumptious buffet of phenomenal acting. Cage and Travolta put on an acting masterclass of emotional conveyance. And they are obviously having the time of their lives while at it. This is top notch performing here, ladies and gentlemen. The way they mimic each other’s mannerisms is damn near flawless. Travolta actually goes full Hard Rock Cage here. But the Cage Man is not to be outdone. No no no. Cage shatters the ground and leaves the earth in a mighty superman leap of a performance! Words like amazing can’t do him justice. I get the feeling Cage and Travolta were in a acting duel to the death the way they seem to be constantly trying to one up each other. This is what a battle of performers looks like, people. Acting majors, take notes and pay homage.
But, I would also like to shine some light onto two of the actors supporting them: Joan Allen and Alessandro Nivola. These two back up our leads considerably. Allen gives an incredible performance as Archer’s wife. And she proves why she is one of our generation’s most underrated performers. And Nivola. How did I miss how great you were in this? I guess when you’re a kid you don’t pay attention to stuff like that, but Nivola is amazing. The way he sells Cage as both Troy and Archer and Travolta as Troy is so great, I actually feel bad now for never noticing his performance when I originally saw this. My sincerest apologies to Alessandro Nivola. You were fantastic in this.
We’ll blow some stuff up, it’s more fun!
But it’s time to talk about the action. And in the words of my ex-girlfriend Alex (RIP) after I showed her this for the first time, “They don’t make them like this anymore!” Oh nooo, they do not. Woo had been held back on his two earlier American movies, but after the success of Broken Arrow, he was allowed a lot more freedom to do whatever he wanted. And he did not waste it! Woo imbues his action with such style and grace like no other director before or after him. A greatest action director of all time conversation shouldn’t even be had if his name isn’t brought up in the discussion. And that’s just being perfectly honest. The action in this movie is some of the best action ever shot. The over the rainbow shootout should be shown on replay all day every day in a art museum.
Seriously, it belongs in The Louvre. Also, the opening shootout in the hangar. The prison escape. The church shootout. The speedboat chase. And the explosions. Good God! How beautiful are the explosions in this movie? If the explosions were a woman, they’d be the cover model for sports illustrated swimsuit every year for 10 years straight. This is the pinnacle of action filmmaking. I can go on and on, man. But there are just not enough words in the english language to help me describe just how awesome the action scenes in Face/Off are. Sheer greatness, I tell ya. Sheer greatness.
Cage is King…
Well, my friends. This is it. The end of our journey. This has been a fun ride down memory lane recounting how the Cage Man became the 90s greatest action hero. It has been fun, but kind of sad all the same. Sad because, if you think about it, this was the last great decade of action movies. And The Beige Volvo trilogy represented the last hurrah for great action in the 90s. Nowadays, we do get great action movies like John Wick, The Raid and Mad Max: Fury Road, but those unfortunately are rare occasions.
Now, we get overproduced CG vomit fests or quick cut, shaky cam crap polluting our screens everywhere. Ugh. What I wouldn’t give to go back to those times of crystal clear action. Ah well, at least we have The Beige Volvo trilogy to remind us what real action movies are supposed to look like. So I would like to give a hearty thank you to Nicolas Cage, for giving us 3 movies that truly defined a decade of great action. You were the action hero we never knew we needed, but you were definitely the action hero we deserved.
Article by The Cinema Drunkie – a cinematic alcoholic from the mean streets of Brooklyn, New York who spends his all of his free time getting drunk off the beauty of all things movie related… and vodka. You can check out his blog here.
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