***½/**** Image A Sound A Extras B
starring John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon
screenplay by Mike Webb & Michael Colleary
directed by John Woo
by Walter Chaw Arriving right smack dab in the latter half of a decade in American cinema that saw digital "reality" supplant filmic "reality" (and appearing the same year as James Cameron's Forrest Gump: Titanic), Hong Kong legend John Woo's high-camp Face/Off directly (and presciently) addresses issues of identity theft, terrorism, and the digital corruption of reality and indirectly addresses Woo's émigré influence on the modern action film. It's a key picture in a ten-year cycle obsessed with mercurial personality shifts--with sliding effortlessly in and out of various personae according to expediency and whim. (Michael Tolkin's awesome Deep Cover being the pinnacle of this trend.) Gauge the state of the nation from its most democratic entertainment; for his part, Woo--struggling to translate the heroic bloodshed of his HK work for western audiences and revealing himself in the process to be a starfucker with questionable taste in Hollywood stars (Christian Slater? John Travolta? Nicolas Cage? Seriously?)--went the self-parodic route with Face/Off (is that Joe Bob Briggs as a lobotomizer in a futuristic supermax, by gum?), wisely un-harnessing Cage's and Travolta's intimidating inner hams in turn to roam free-range through the picture's exuberantly ridiculous tableaux.