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Face Off Reviews

Hong Kong action auteur John Woo returns to peak form with this preposterous tale of an FBI man and a psychotic terrorist who quite literally swap faces. Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) is a driven man: Six years ago, lethal nut job Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) tried to assassinate him, and wound up killing Archer's 5-year-old son instead. When Archer finally brings in Castor and his even loonier brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), it looks as though he can finally put it all behind him and start patching up his relationship with long-suffering wife Eve (Joan Allen) and rebellious daughter Jamie (Dominique Swain). The curveball: The Troys have planted a nerve-gas bomb somewhere in L.A.: Castor is in an apparently irreversible coma, and Pollux -- an inmate in a hellish, high-tech prison -- won't talk. Now, if he thought he were talking to his brother... A bit of EYES WITHOUT A FACE business later, and Archer is shipped off to jail to save the day. But wouldn't you just know that there's wicked life in Castor yet, and that this whole trading places thing is going to take a turn for the very nasty? Unlike Woo's successful but rather disappointing BROKEN ARROW, this brutal, stunningly choreographed spectacle weaves together lyrical beauty, blasphemy, sadistic cruelty and grotesque sentimentality with breathtakingly smooth assurance. Which is to say, it's everything fans love in his Hong Kong films. Come to think of it, Woo lifts more than a little from THE KILLER, skillfully tailored to the U.S. cast and locales. This summer blockbuster doesn't disappoint.