Kevin: “Say what you want about Castor Troy, he gives Archer’s daughter good advice about how not to get raped by Danny Masterson, something I worry about all the time myself.” Back when I made that joke in our Tag Team on the John Travolta/Nicolas Cage classic “Face/Off,” I had no idea that Hyde from “That ‘70s Show” would be one of the most prominent targets of the #MeToo campaign by the end of the year. Yet in the last few weeks Masterson has been effectively fired from his Netflix show “The Ranch” and cut loose by his agency after several women have accused him of assault.
So in light of recent events, it’s rather ironic that Masterson’s most prominent big screen appearance over the course of his career is in “Face/Off” as the douchebag who tries to force himself on Travolta’s daughter, and discovers that – even for an amoral sociopathic terrorist wearing the face of his FBI nemesis – chivalry is still not dead:
Since Tough Guy Digest believes in due process (except for Harvey Weinstein, because c’mon, look at that gross fuck!), we will leave it to others to pass judgment on whether Masterson is innocent or guilty of the allegations against him. We will however pass judgment on the fact that watching Travolta beat the shit out of Masterson’s character is just one of the many highlights of “Face/Off,” so if you’d like to relive that moment, as well as some excellent parenting advice about the proper way to stab a horny date in the leg, please enjoy CJ and I’s thoughts on John Woo’s truly bonkers and original action masterpiece:
(Originally posted July 26, 2017)
Kevin/CJ Tag Team the Insane Brilliance of Travolta/Cage in “Face/Off”
Kevin: “They don’t make movies like that anymore” is a phrase that would certainly apply to “Face/Off,” although they didn’t really make movies like that before either. That’s because “Face/Off” is a true original: an ultra-violent summer blockbuster, with a hilariously gonzo premise played completely straight, starring two VERY over the top and fully committed performers (John Travolta and Nicolas Cage) at the height of their popularity, and with a director (John Woo) going for broke and channeling all of his idiosyncratic obsessions (driven men on opposite sides of the law, the balletic beauty of slow-motion gunplay, doves in places they shouldn’t be) into a perfect cinematic vessel, one he’s never been able to top since.
CJ and I decided to do a Tag Team on “Face/Off” after checking it out on the big screen again last month at the Alamo Drafthouse for its 20-year anniversary, and the passage of time has only reinforced the fact that we will never see a movie like it again, and it’s a miracle we even got it at all. I’ll assume anyone reading this already knows the plot of “Face/Off” by now, so I’ll start our discussion CJ with the most important aspect of the movie: the insane number of times characters do the “running hand down someone’s face” move over the course of this film:
When John Travolta does it to his son at the very beginning it seems normal because it just looks like a cute game you would play with a child, but no, apparently he does this to friends and family multiple times per day. His mental disorder is so ingrained that his daughter greets her newly adopted brother (hooray, now we have two emotionally and psychologically damaged kids to deal with!) by immediately doing it to him. At one point I guess we are supposed to surmise that his wife is upset with him because she turns away when he tries to do it to her, but I would just assume she is as sick of that as any grown person would be.
Now one of the biggest complaints people have always had with the whole “switching faces” thing is that it would be easier to swallow if the film were set in the future. Although we should note that the movie was released in June of 1997, and when Travolta (now Castor Troy) is reading his wife Eve’s diary it is clearly dated “September 21, 1997,” so technically it does take place in the future. And if we assume the diary entry was supposed to be somewhat old, the movie may even take place in the faraway time of 1998!
Although I’m not sure why the underlying concept of “Face/Off” would be easier to swallow if the movie took place in like 2021, since the underlying concept would be inherently absurd no matter what the date.
CJ: (Runs hand down Kevin’s face)
First of all I’m just letting you know that this was written by me and not an impostor who stole my face.
Now that we’ve established our security protocol, let’s talk about face/offing! The entire movie is based on the concept that a doctor who has never done this before will transplant Nic Cage’s face onto Travolta, and then everything will go according to plan. Now I’m fine with making up crazy concepts, but how is there not one person in the office who at least questions his ability to do this. It’s not like the doctor had mentioned how he’d been practicing face/offing on corpses down in the lab. It’s just, “Yeah, I’m pretty confident I can nail this on the first try. Why aren’t you in your hospital gown yet?”
But what’s funny is the science of it all isn’t what throws me off as the most impossible part of this idea. Here’s what gets me: Quick show of hands, who here has drawn and cut a circle out of construction paper? And how smooth were those edges? In no way can this doctor cut along these faces and not have jagged edges where he had to constantly stop and start over.
Even worse is when they all agree that no one can know about this operation, not even Sean Archer’s family. If it were me, I would specifically say, “Absolutely not. Tell as many people as necessary, especially my wife. I do not want to risk my mortal enemy who shot my son to show up and fuck my wife, and probably in some vile ways since he’s played by Nicolas Cage. Has no one else seen ‘Face/Off’?”
Kevin: Of course all that is completely forgotten about at the end when another doctor basically tells Archer (still with the face of Castor Troy), “No worries, when you wake up everything will be back to the way it was. It will be like nothing ever happened. We’ll even completely remove those thick scars Troy gave your face as well.” And they do, very easily. So what’s the deal, early in the movie Archer and his colleagues are in complete amazement at the whole notion of face/offing, but at the end it’s apparently such a common procedure that a third-year resident at Beth Israel can do it.
Are we sure this isn’t one of those ambiguous-type endings where Travolta is actually dead and this is all a fantasy? Think about it, the whole “go to sleep and you’ll look exactly the same as before” thing seems too good to be true. Then we have that kind of heavenly slow-mo of Travolta when he walks in the door with his brand new replacement son.
Also, why the fuck was the family just hanging out at home and not at the hospital? They didn’t even bother to pick him up! I know Eve obviously had some new shit to update her journal on, but when I had my wisdom teeth taken out I would have divorced my wife if she blew me off and made me drive home myself, much less after getting my face put back on.
(To read the rest of our “Face/Off” Tag Team, click HERE.)