It took two Hollywood films (Hard Target
and Broken Arrow
) before John Woo was allowed to cut loose with his trademark style on Face/Off. The result was his most commercially and critically successful American film at that point in his career. However, for fans of his Hong Kong films, this one seemed like a highlight reel from his earlier work as Woo recycled many of his signature shots Birds flying in slow motion? Check. Guy Leaping in the air while firing two guns simultaneously? Check. Unfortunately, Face/Off marks the apex of his Hollywood career. Woo has done nothing since that's been as good. So, to celebrate the film's 10th anniversary, Paramount has revisited the film with a brand new special edition.
Woo works hard to sell the film's admittedly outlandish gimmick by throwing all kinds of scientific mumbo jumbo at us and lingering on shots of spiffy looking technology. The swapping of identities also allows the filmmaker to examine one of his favourite themes: how two people can exhibit similar characteristics but be on opposite sides of the law and on opposite sides of the moral spectrum. It is nice to see Woo finally given a decent-sized budget to play with and two big-time movie stars like Cage and Travolta to work with. Despite a few audacious glimmers, like staging a chaotic gunfight around a child listening to "Under the Rainbow," we still get a recycling of Woo's stylistic trademarks. However, this can be somewhat forgiven as it was the first real exposure for many North Americans to his work on a mainstream level.
The first disc features an audio commentary by director John Woo and screenwriters Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. Woo says that he initially passed on the project because he didn't think that he could do a science fiction film, but after working with CGI on Broken Arrow, felt more comfortable with the idea. The writers say that Woo concentrated on the characters and their emotions in their conversations together.
Also included is an additional commentary with Werb and Colleary that features a lot of repeated comments from the previous track. Werb and Colleary stress that they wanted to write an action film with a villain that was just as interesting as the hero.
There are six deleted scenes and alternate ending with optional commentary by Woo, Werb and Colleary. There's a nice, reflective moment where Archer spends the night in his dead son's room before his surgery and also two action sequences that are extended.
The second disc has a well-made documentary entitled, "The Light and The Dark: Making Face/Off" that can be viewed in five separate featurettes or altogether. Cage and Travolta talk about how they approached their roles, mimicking each other. Cast and crew praise Woo and his signature style and how well he works with actors. The film's elaborate practical, visual effects and stunts are all examined. Finally, Woo sums up the film - for him, it's all about family and how Archer achieves closure with his.
"John Woo: A Life in Pictures" is a 30-minute profile of the filmmaker, from his humble childhood, living poor in a bad neighbourhood to a successful Hollywood director. It also takes a brief look at some of his key Hong Kong work but nothing too detailed for hardcore fans. This doc acts mainly as a primer for newcomers to his work.
Finally, a theatrical trailer.