In the mid 90s, both Nicholas Cage and John Travolta were enjoying major career revivals. Cage was a newly minted action star thanks to the success of The Rock and Con Air, while Travolta had reinvented himself from faded pin-up to credible leading man in critical and commercial hits such as Pulp Fiction and Get Shorty. So you have to imagine that Face/Off was a pretty easy sell to the studios – pairing these resurgent titans in an action blockbuster was probably as close to a box office sure thing as you could imagine in 1997.
Directed by Hong Kong action icon John Woo, Face/Off gives Cage and Travolta the opportunity not only to square off, but also to impersonate one another – an inspired choice for two of Hollywood’s most luxuriously honey-glazed hams. Thanks to some truly ridiculous pseudo science – the film was originally supposed to be set in the future – Travolta’s FBI agent and Cage’s unhinged supervillain literally swap faces, meaning that each actor gets to essentially play the other.
Cage had at this point already established his hyper-expressive acting style, but Travolta very nearly matches him. Of the two, he probably delivers the most successful impersonation. Cage’s Travolta is pretty much just Cage being Cage, which is undeniably entertaining, but there’s just as much fun watching Travolta working some Cage-ian quirks into his own performance.
Face/Off works so well because the ludicrousness is so fully baked into the movie that it becomes a feature rather than a bug. It races from one spectacularly over-the-top action sequence to another, barely pausing for breath. There’s explosive action sequences in the air, on the roads, on the sea – all that’s missing is a sequence in outer space.
On this week’s podcast, we discuss some of our favourite moments from the film – including Cage’s alarming seduction techniques, Travolta’s disturbing face grabbing and one of the highest bullet counts in action movie history. We also have a productive round of drinking game ideas, check in with our listeners and pitch sequel ideas to bring this iconic pairing back to the big screen.
If you enjoy this week’s episode, hit subscribe to receive a new show every Monday morning, and please consider leaving us a review on your preferred podcatcher. It really does help us to attract new listeners.
Next week, we continue our Nicholas Cage mini-season with another successful pairing with an older actor. Until then, happy listening and remember – it’s like a facelift, only… not.