Category Archives: F is for…

F is for… Faster

I came upon Faster recommended on a list of the 100 best action movies. It’s a bit confusing because even though the DVD case itself quotes a review calling it “…the best straight-up action film of the year,” the film isn’t really what I’d call an action movie. It’s not a bad movie by any means, it’s just that there are a lot of other much better movies out there that are true action movies. Faster is more of a revenge movie, which is fine. I guess I was just expecting a little more from the list, and the DVD cover.

…and yes, I’m aware that several movies I’ve reviewed for this site aren’t quite “action” movies, but those are the ones I hadn’t seen before reviewing them, including this one. This site is a work in progress to expand horizons and see and review a lot of kickass movies that might otherwise not be seen nor reviewed.

All of that being said, Faster, directed by George Tillman, Jr, is an engaging if slightly confused film starring Dwayne Johnson as Driver, a man sent to prison for being the getaway driver during a bank heist. The second he gets out of prison, he literally runs back into town and starts killing people. Through the use of flashbacks, it’s explained that after the successful bank heist, the group of robbers is slaughtered by a second group that steals the stolen money. The initial thieves, including Driver’s brother Gary (Matt Gerald), are all killed, and Driver should have been dead but the bullet shot into his head merely traveled along his skull, not through it. Driver is hunting down everyone in the group that slaughtered his friends and brother.

Investigating the case is Cop, played by Billy Bob Thornton. The case is originally assigned to a tough as nails detective named Cicero (Carla Gugino), but she lets him sort of tag along if he makes himself useful. Cop investigates Driver’s kills with the help of a video taken of the murders of the robbers, while also shooting heroin and dealing with his bossy ex Marina (Moon Bloodgood) and unathletic and lonely son.

Meanwhile there’s also Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a handsome renaissance man who is hired to assassinate Driver. He seems to be able to track Driver fairly easily, all the while dealing with his own personal demons in the form of marriage.

After Driver kills the first two people involved in the executions, he attacks but doesn’t kill the third one, only puts him into critical condition. When he realizes this he immediately goes to the hospital where the victim is being held and shoots him in the operating room. Cop, who had predicted Driver would come to the hospital, engages Driver in a gunfight, but Driver doesn’t kill him because he doesn’t have a reason to. As Driver leaves the hospital, Killer catches up with him and they also have a brief shootout, and Driver also lets him live.

The big showdown comes at the scene of an evangelical revival meeting, where Driver tracked the last person involved in killing his brother. Despite the man’s involvement, Driver lets him live, possibly because he’s changed his ways and works to help people. Killer finds Driver sitting by himself, and realizes that Driver thinks he’s done getting his revenge. He then points out that there has to be one more person involved–whomever hired him and knew that Driver was hunting everyone involved in the deaths. Enter Cop, who also knew where Driver would be heading next. He then shoots Driver, and it’s revealed that Cop was the other person involved in the murders and had in fact been the one to shoot Driver in the back of the head, and that he had hired Killer, thinking that Driver would eventually be after him. When Cop realized at the hospital that Driver had no idea who he was, he tried to call off Killer, but Killer wanted to complete his job.

Meanwhile, Cicero had put the pieces together–Driver’s victims were all members of Cop’s CRASH unit, comprised of prison snitches. Marina had been Gary’’s girlfriend, so she knew of the bank heist, and told the others about it. Cicero isn’t able to get to the revival tent before Driver is able to kill Cop and Killer escapes. She doesn’t let anyone know what she figured out, so that Cop’s family can receive his benefits.

Driver, mission complete, drives off into the sunset, while Killer returns to his wife.

It’s a simple but fairly well-done story, if a bit heavily focused on developing the characters of Cop and Killer at the expense of properly developing Driver, the guy the audience is supposed to be rooting for despite his actions. Yes, there’s the scene where we learn Driver left a pregnant girlfriend behind when he went to prison, and the scene with his mother where we learn of his difficult childhood, but these moments don’t really add much to the plot, they just sort of slow things down. I suppose I wanted to know more about who Driver is now, rather than who he used to be. On the other hand, Killer was very intriguing, what with his adrenaline rush issues. Cop was the most blah character to me, but that could be due to his introductory scene consisting of him scoring heroin, and I have no tolerance for drug use, which causes me to not like characters who do drugs.

Anyway, let’s move on to the criteria!

A is for… Accents

Faster is a fairly accent-light movie, especially considering the last few I’ve reviewed. The only character with a noticeable accent is Killer, who is British.

B is for… Bad Guys

This is one of those films where the protagonist is just as bad a person as the antagonist, but the viewer knows he has to root for him. Driver is initially seen in prison, and the very first thing he does after getting out is shoot someone, and the viewer doesn’t know who the victim is or why Driver shoots him. Of course everything is eventually explained, but it’s still a little hard to identify with Driver. He’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t really have much dialogue to soften his actions. I suppose that’s where those scenes with his ex-girlfriend and mother come into play, but I didn’t really know enough about him to find the scenes helpful and not hammy.

Killer is a bad guy, but he’s not exactly a true antagonist because Driver, while he does interact with him, isn’t trying to get anything from him. Driver simply seems to know Killer is trying to kill him, but doesn’t really seem to care why. Killer is simply doing a job that it is ultimately revealed that he does for fun–he only charges a dollar for his kills, and he has the dollars framed and mounted on his wall. Killer was already a successful software pioneer before “beating yoga” and climbing mountains; he is always looking for the next challenge when he becomes bored. He’s sort of reined in by his girlfriend-then-wife Lily (Maggie Grace), who wants him to quit being a killer.

Cop shouldn’t be a bad guy, considering he’s a cop, but he’s clearly a corrupt cop from the get-go, and ultimately is revealed to be the connection between Driver and Killer. He’d been the one to originally shoot Driver when his friends and brother were killed, and he tried to kill him again only to be foiled by the metal plate put in Driver’s skull after the first bullet. As much as he’s a professional screw-up, Cop does seem to be trying to do right by his son, if not by Marina, a recovering addict to whom he provides more drugs.

C is for… Chases

During the bank heist, the cops chase the robbers in a scene designed to show off Driver’s driving skills, though he doesn’t really use them in the rest of the film except when Killer is chasing him after they both leave the hospital.

D is for… Damsels

Lily is Killer’s girlfriend then wife in the matter of the five days during which the movie takes place. She wants Killer to stop working, even though he points out that she used to be attracted to his work. She is beautiful and doesn’t seem to have a job herself, though considering how rich he is, she doesn’t need to work. She seems to be similarly interested and skilled in fast cars and guns, and is heartbroken that he didn’t quit when he said he did.

Cicero is a tough and competent cop who seems to be the only one who puts together all the pieces and reach the conclusion that Cop is also involved in the murders of Driver’s friends and brother. She chooses to keep quiet and let his family inherit his benefits after his death.

Marina is a former drug addict and snitch, though she uses drugs during the film after Cop gives them to her. She wants Cop to be a better father, and seems to entertain the idea of getting back together with him. She had been Driver’s brother’s girlfriend during the initial bank heist, and it was through her that everyone else learned of the score and decided to take it and kill everyone.

E is for… Explosions

There isn’t a real explosion in the film, but during the shootout in the hospital basement, bullets hit an electrical box that then sparks.

F is for… Flashbacks

Flashbacks are used extensively to depict past events from Driver’s point of view, including the bank heist and the death of his brother and friends. Considering the theme of the film and the simplicity of the narrative, the flashbacks are an effective method of telling the story without having Driver talk to himself, considering he’s alone most of the time.

G is for… Guns

Check out the full listing at the IMFDB.

There’s a revolver waiting for Driver in the provided car when he gets out of prison.

Killer, not surprisingly, has an armory in his garage.

The informant crew uses a shotgun on the robbers.

There’s the shootout at the apartment building between Driver and Killer, and then the shootout at the hospital between Driver and Cop.

For some reason Driver chooses his gun over a different weapon every time except in the strip club, where he uses a knife.

H is for… Helicopters

Sadly, there are no helicopters in Faster.

I is for… Improvisation

Considering Driver leaves prison in the first scene and doesn’t seem to have any resources except his car and his gun, he doesn’t seem to have to improvise ever. No one does, really–everyone has actual weapons.

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

Sadly, no panes of glass or weak walls have a person thrown through them.

K is for… Kill Count

Driver’s first victim is the Telemarketer, whom he shoots in the head.

He then stalks the Cameraman at his apartment, and shoots him in the head.

For some reason he doesn’t shoot the guy who actually slit his brother’s throat, preferring to stab him repeatedly. It is unclear why he doesn’t either use his gun or slit his throat, unless he doesn’t actually have his gun because he had to pass the bouncer to get into the club (and then why not wait until his victim is outside?). Regardless, it would have been poetic for him to slit his throat rather than just stab him. When it’s revealed he’s alive, Driver does indeed shoot him at the hospital, multiple times.

He knows better than to kill Cop at the hospital.

He doesn’t shoot Killer when he has the chance, merely shoots out his tire so he can’t follow him.

He doesn’t kill the preacher, though he does fire a shot next to him.

He ultimately shoots Cop after learning of his involvement with everything.

L is for… Limitations

Driver is alone, using his acquired intel to complete his mission by himself. Other than that, though, he’s never really shown to be struggling, just very focused on what he’s doing.

M is for… Motivation

Driver’s motivation is clearly revenge or vengeance for his brother’s murder.

Cop is expecting Driver to eventually target him, and he wants to cover his tracks and take him out.

Killer wants the rush, and the conquest.

N is for… Negotiation

None of the three main characters really talk to each other, so there isn’t any negotiation between them.

R.G. (Mike Epps) tries to negotiate for more money for his intel, but Driver wants nothing to do with it, and ultimately gets the intel and his money back simply by being a badass.

O is for… One Liners

Killer’s therapist: Are you off your meds?
Killer, giddily: Yes.

Cop: We’ve got a telemarketer and a sex offender. What’s next, a lawyer?

The bouncer, indicating Driver’s arms: You got any weapons on you besides these two guns right here?

Driver, to the preacher: God can’t save you from me.

Driver, to Killer: You’ve got issues.

Cop: I created my own Hell.
Driver: And I’m the demon who crawled up out of it.

P is for… Profession

Driver is… the getaway driver for one of his brother’s bank heists. He’s depicted as being a decent sort of businessman, because he made a lot of money running a contraband ring in prison. The warden describes him as never asking for trouble, but also never turning it down. His mother says that he was never a criminal until he was helping Gary.

It’s unclear why he served ten years in prison for being the getaway driver, especially if he didn’t have a previous record.

It’s also unclear what sort of career he can have after the film if it isn’t murdering or driving, because those are the only two skills he’s shown using. Perhaps salesman or businessman, but it would have to be for something illegal, considering he’s a fugitive.

Q is for… Quagmire

In the revival tent, Killer has his gun trained on Driver. Then Cop comes in, and actually shoots him. Driver actually likely would have died if he didn’t have the metal plate from the first shot to the head.

I believe this is the first film reviewed for this site where the main character actually should be dead, he was in such a quagmire.

R is for… Reality, or the Suspension of Disbelief

It’s a little hard to believe that no one connected the pieces together before, but perhaps there truly wasn’t enough evidence to piece together Cop and his ring of informants.

It’s also really hard to believe that Driver jogged all the way from the prison to the junkyard in the desert heat, even if it was only a few miles. Maybe his determination saw him through.

S is for… Sidekicks

R.G. is the one who left the car, weapon, and first victim’s information for Driver for when he got out of prison. He also provides the complete list of informants that Driver needs to kill.

T is for… Technology

There are an awful lot of surveillance cameras in the telemarketing office.

The Cameraman making his own snuff film is the only information the police seem to have on Driver’s bank heist group execution.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

No unexpected romance in Faster. Unexpected former romantic entanglement yes, but no romance for Driver moving forward.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

At one point during the chase from the hospital, Driver maneuvers his car in front of a tractor trailer to the point that the tractor trailer has to merge to the right, cutting off Killer and forcing him to stop to avoid a collision.

W is for… Winning

Driver seems to have completed his mission, until Killer explains that there is one more member of the gang that executed Driver’s friends and brother. Before Driver really has time to process that, Cop shows up and shoots Driver. He and Killer then talk, and he tries to pay Killer for completing the job. Killer turns it down, then goes home to Lily. Cop continues walking, only to be shot by Driver, who’d been saved by the plate in his head.

Killer quits to be with his wife, Driver drives off into the sunset, and thanks to Cicero, Cop’s family gets its inheritance.

X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor

A quite literal example here, considering Driver was shot in the head and survived, and now has a metal plate in his head. He should probably get that thing checked out considering he was shot again. And surely he must have a terrible headache, no matter how diesel that thing is.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

This theme is the entire focus of the movie–Cop and his gang killed Driver’s friends and brother, and tried to kill him. Upon leaving prison, Driver made getting his revenge on all of them his number one priority. Had Cop been successful the first time, there would be no movie. Had there not been a snuff film, perhaps the police would never have put the pieces together. If Driver’s brother hadn’t been daring Marina, Cop wouldn’t have learned of the heist in the first place.

Z is for… Zone, In The

Driver is so single-minded that he’s pretty much always in the Zone, focusing on his current or next kill.

In Summation

Faster has a lot going for it, including a good cast and a simple story that allows it to focus on other things, like how to tell that story. That becomes sort of its problem, too, the fact that the story is so simple it needs a little padding to make it long enough. One reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes wishes Faster were either smarter or dumber, and upon watching the film the analysis makes a lot more sense. The plot could be less simplistic, or the action could be turned up to eleven, as a way to apply the sentiment.

Some notes:
It’s extremely nitpicky, but I hated the yellow tone to the whole movie, making it look like it was perpetually sunset. It certainly didn’t do Bakersfield any favors.

Cop mentions several times that he’s only a couple weeks away from retirement. It was a giant smoking gun with neon lights screaming that he wasn’t going to survive the movie.

The yoga fan service…. Yowza! Oliver Jackson-Cohen can do more almost-naked yoga whenever he desires, in my book.

This was the second movie in a row I’ve reviewed that used the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

There were way too many storylines, and attempts to add character development. Okay, Killer clearly had mobility issues as a child, but obviously worked through them. Are we to assume it was those health issues that led him to become the results oriented, conquer-focused man he became? I guess maybe, but it was unnecessary. As for Cop, hey, the drug addict cop has family issues and isn’t around for his kid? I’m pretty sure that’s part of the character for EVERY COP MOVIE EVER. And the scenes with Driver’s ex and mother, so boring and unnecessary, easily replaced by quick flashbacks.

I hate to say it, but a lot of the scenes with the women made the film drag. Driver’s ex, with the tale of woe of the abortion and having to break up with Driver, and she has a new family and new life… It’s been ten years, it’s expected and boring–there’s got to be another way to make Driver seem more human. And again with the mother, where we have Driver’s childhood with his abusive father and favoritism toward the son that actually belonged to the father, and how he was actually a good boy and never did anything wrong until his brother needed his help… Not interesting enough to warrant the whole scene, when a series of short flashbacks could have been used, especially considering that the film was already using flashbacks. Then Killer with Lily, and wanting to settle down, and they get married and go to their cabin on the lake and she wants him to quit… It’s like the coinciding story to the workaholic cop, the woman who wants him to quit for her. Speaking of which, Marina didn’t really serve a point except to be the connection between Cop and the brother. And of course to yell at Cop for being a terrible father. Normally I’m on the side of the policeman in these scenarios, because the wives should understand the work their husbands have to do, but considering he’s a dirty, drug using cop, I couldn’t really care less.

The only woman whose character deserved to be developed, Cicero, didn’t get developed, I suppose because she didn’t have a connection to the three main men.

How many lines does Driver actually have? He’s pretty much alone and walking, driving, or shooting the entire film.

There are a lot of overhead shots of the car spinning, I guess to look cool and illustrate how good of a driver Driver is.

During the scenes in the tent, especially during the revival, all I could think about what how hot it must have been inside when they were filming. That location for the revival was beautiful, though, with the lake.

So, Faster had a lot of good things, and a lot of negative things, but is certainly enjoyable enough to watch as a revenge story, if not an action movie.

Advertisements

F is for… Face/Off

Oh, Face/Off.   You silly, silly film.

I’d seen Face/Off a couple of times since it came out, but of course never bothered to think about it too closely.  Perhaps that’s because if someone does look closer, he or she will realize that the film makes absolutely no sense.

At all.

In any consideration.

That being said, the film is quite entertaining, with its silliness contributing to the enjoyment.

Face/Off (directed by John Woo) stars John Travolta as Sean Archer and Nicolas Cage as Castor Troy, an FBI agent and a terrorist-for-hire who have seemingly been each other’s nemeses for a long time.  The film even opens with Troy trying to assassinate Archer but accidentally killing his son Mikey (Myles Jeffrey) instead.  Six years later Archer’s team tracks down Troy and his brother Pollux (Alessandro Nivola) as they’re trying to escape in an airplane.  In a scene that would be the climax in another movie, there’s a huge shootout, a plane crashing through a building, and Castor getting knocked unconscious—by a jet engine.

But wait, there’s more!  Castor Troy is actually an unresponsive vegetable, but he and Pollux had planted a bomb full of nerve agent and only Pollux knows where it is.  So it’s suggested that Archer swap faces with Castor and go to the prison where Pollux is being held and try to trick Pollux into giving Archer the location of the bomb.  After some initial doubts, and by “doubts” I mean “refusing harshly,” Archer agrees to undergo the surgery in order to find the location of the bomb from Pollux.  It’s a super secret operation, with the only people knowing about it the doctor, Archer’s partner, and another agent close to them.

Everything goes smoothly and Archer is even able to get the information out of Pollux, who spills the location of the bomb pretty quickly for a guy who’s described as sociopathic and paranoid.  But….back at the surgery center, Castor is actually not a vegetable!  He’s able to walk around, call his flunkies, and smoke a cigarette, and then convinces Dr. Walsh (Colm Feore) to put Archer’s face on his body.  This leads to a rather powerful scene where Archer-as-Castor gets a visitor at the prison, only to have the door pull back and reveal Castor-as-Archer leaning against the doorframe.  Archer’s spirit is broken, Pollux is released from the prison because Castor-as-Archer negotiated a deal, and Castor had killed the only three people in the world who knew what was going on.

Motivated by Castor diffusing his own bomb and the world therefore rejoicing at “Agent Archer,” Archer escapes from the extremely maximum security prison…somehow (details later in this post)… and somehow gets back on land, as the prison is in the middle of a body of water.  He makes it back to town and tracks down Castor’s friends, whom he’d interrogated earlier in the film.  He learns Castor has a son.  Pollux, who’d been spying from the building across the street, lets Castor know where Archer is, and Castor calls in the FBI.  There’s a massive shootout and Pollux winds up dead.

Archer makes it back to his own house and scares the crap out of his wife Eve (Joan Allen) but eventually convinces her that the man she’s been sleeping with isn’t her husband.  She’s still suspicious, but takes a blood sample anyway (as Castor and Archer have different blood types).   Fortunately, she’s a doctor, so she’s able to compare the samples and confirm that yes, the crazy-sounding man in front of her is actually her husband, and the man who’s been living in her house for a week is actually her husband’s greatest enemy and the man who killed their son.

Meanwhile Archer’s boss (Harve Presnell) has a heart attack, made deadly by Castor punching him in the chest, so “Archer” and his wife have to attend the funeral.  For some reason this is where Archer decides to face down Castor.  A shootout at the church leaves Castor’s goons dead, and Archer’s daughter Jamie (Dominique Swain) a hostage.  She shoots her dad because she doesn’t realize they’ve switched and then Castor grabs her so she stabs him in the leg as he taught her, and she runs to her mom while Castor runs away.

Castor and Archer wind up stealing speedboats and having a full speed chase in the harbor.  Eventually the boats crash and the final confrontation takes place in the sand.  Archer ultimately gets the killing shot off, and his fellow agents ask if he’s okay (Eve had called to let them know what was going on).

The film ends with the surgery successfully being reversed, and the Archer family taking in Castor’s son, Adam (David McCurley), who’s about the same age as Archer’s son had been when he died.

Laying it all out like that, I do appreciate the actually simple plot and its rather linear aspect.  A leads to B leads to C, without anything overcomplicating the storyline.  The film tells the tale of a man who needs to get his life back after things go horribly awry.

And there are a lot of guns along the way.

 

A is for… Accents

The major players are all American, so no one has an accent.  Pollux speaks strangely, but it’s not an accent.

 

B is for… Bad Guys

Castor Troy is introduced as he lines up a killing shot on Sean Archer.  The bullet goes through Archer and hits his son, killing him instantly.  Castor actually looks somewhat upset at Mikey’s death, or perhaps he’s upset he didn’t kill Archer.  Of course, one can also ask him why on earth he chose a moving target if he’s such a good assassin.  Is he too confident of his skills to shoot Archer as he’s standing still instead of on a carousel?  He’d have to get off the carousel at some point.  Maybe the carousel is being used to illustrate that for all he’s a good assassin/mercenary/whatever—other than “terrorist” he isn’t fleshed out very well—he’s not too bright.

Other than being a ridiculously poor assassin, if that opening scene is anything to go by, which it has to be because it’s all the viewer has, Castor is also depicted as being flashy.  One would think a showboating assassin isn’t a good thing, but, you know, that’s not how Castor rolls.  When he’s planting the bomb as the LA Convention Center, he’s dressed as a priest, presumably because there’s a church choir performing.  But he sings loudly, drawing attention to himself, and also dances and swears.  He’s also a womanizer, or at least gets a perverse thrill at groping women’s posteriors; he grabs a choir girl after planting the bomb, and one of Archer’s coworkers after the transformation, and he hits on and makes out with the flight attendant on the plane before she reveals she’s an agent.

He also, for some reason, doesn’t seem to like other people swearing, if his order of “watch your mouth” is any indication, which is silly considering how often he swears.

Pollux is nervous and paranoid, while Archer calls him a “paranoid sociopath.”  He’s also depicted as being childish, such as when Castor has to tie his shoes.  It’s unclear whether this is Pollux needing his shoes tied because he’s can’t do it himself, or Castor being a creepily protective older brother.

Which begs the question, who on earth names their kids “Castor” and “Pollux” if they aren’t twins?  Or are these codenames?  Maybe the characters are the same age, but they certainly don’t look it.

 

C is for… Chases

The opening climax of the movie has the Troy plane trying to take off while the FBI chases it down with their cars and Archer’s Jeep getting in the way and playing chicken.

While escaping the prison, Archer is chased on the roof rather half-heartedly by a helicopter that gives up once he jumps off into the water.

After the funeral shootout, Archer chases Castor to the docks, where they steal speedboats.  This leads to the climactic speedboat chase through the harbor, which involves a lot of explosions somehow.  The chase drags on a little, but that may be because by this point the film has dragged on and Castor just needs to be apprehended already.

 

D is for… Damsels

Ooo boy.  The most obvious damsel in the film is Eve, Archer’s wife.  In her first scenes she’s rather unhappy and resigned to being that way.  She’s elated Castor is out of the picture, and excited Sean will be home again after he tells her he’s asking for a desk job.

She’s a doctor, which becomes crucial to the plot.

She’s also… rather slow if she can’t figure out that this man—who actually drives by their house because he doesn’t know which one it is—isn’t her husband.  He doesn’t know what “final mission” she asks about.  He’s flirty and romantic and doesn’t care about work, which is clearly not how Archer behaved.  Castor even reads in her diary about the failure of their recent date night.  How can she believe this utterly different man is her husband?  Okay, there’s denial.  There’s also the inability to imagine that Sean’s been body swapped or body snatched or face offed, but even given that science fiction isn’t real, shouldn’t there be some level of doubt and suspicion in her mind?  She even acknowledges he’s acting differently, and that he’s crazy for not remembering Mikey’s birthday and the annual trip to the cemetery.

And this is all the stuff that the viewer sees.  What about the other day-to-day stuff that Castor would never know?  Like where the dinner plates or glasses are.  What Archer’s nightly routine is.  Heck, Castor says he sleeps with her—does he make love the way Archer does?  Is Eve turned on by the new technique?  None of this makes sense.

Archer -as-Castor scares the hell out of her as she’s coming out of the shower, but his behavior is enough to cause some doubt in her mind.  Because she’s conveniently a doctor she can take a blood sample from each man and type it, which proves that the man with Castor’s face is actually her husband.  There’s also the long sappy story he tells about their first date.  All of this and it seems to be the stupid hand-down-the-face gesture that Archer always does that finally convinces her.

Another damsel is Archer and Eve’s daughter Jamie.  Funnily enough, she does doubt Castor-as-Archer at first because he doesn’t even know her name.  He also smokes.  He says she’ll see a lot of changes, which maybe is enough to keep her from thinking too much about why her dad is acting weird.  Castor at least seems more engaged in her life than Archer was; her boyfriend starts getting handsy and Castor beats him up and gives Jamie a knife and a lesson on how to use it.  Of course this comes back to haunt him because she uses the knife on him when he takes her hostage.  The viewer can also ask why the heck Eve didn’t tell her daughter that her dad isn’t her dad.  Seriously, no one thought to tell her?  That Castor wouldn’t go for her?  It makes no sense.

The final damsel is Sasha (Gina Gershon), one of Castor’s friends and former (or on-again off-again?) lover.  Archer tries to get her talk by explaining the FBI can have her son taken away if she has further involvement with Castor or hides information.  Archer-as-Castor goes to her and her brother Dietrich’s (Nick Cassavetes) place.  Here he learns that her son Adam is actually Castor’s.  The problem with this is that A) Castor is supposed to be in jail, so why isn’t anyone more concerned that he’s there? And B) this is the night she tells Castor the kid is his?  Really?  Not only that, she tells Adam that Castor is his dad.  Knowing how badly things can go at any moment with a known felon and fugitive in the room, why on earth did she choose that moment to tell anyone anything?  Of course the place gets blown to hell when the FBI shows up, and Sasha guns down a lot of agents herself.  Great environment for the kid, who’s watching everything while listening to headphones to block out the noise, which means he’ll be deaf anyway if the headphones are up loud enough to drown out gunfire that’s right next to him.  And oh yeah, he was playing with Castor’s guns before that.  Nice.  Sasha is gunned down at the church, on top of Archer -as-Castor.  Very romantic for this manipulative woman.  She seems to promote peace while being surrounded by and contributing to the violence around her.

 

E is for… Explosions

When the airplane crashes into the hangar at the beginning of the film, there’s of course an explosion, similar to the way there’s one when Archer shoots out the engine.

For some reason all of the gunshots look like explosions, with the bullets raining sparks whenever they hit anything.  It makes the shootout scenes look extra flamey.

The prison escape has either a lot of small explosions or a lot of gunshots-that-look-like-tiny-explosions.

During the final boat chase, Castor’s gun hits propane tanks on the dock, causing a large explosion.

Archer runs his boat into a police boat and then into a barge, and both times there’s an explosion.

The red boat flips up, lands in the water, and then explodes everywhere.  These boats clearly have a lot of fuel in them.

 

F is for… Flashbacks

The opening scene where Castor shoots Archer and Mikey almost plays as a flashback, because a lot of it is in slow motion and it’s got a soft filter on it.

When Castor is describing destroying the lab where the surgery took place, there’s a flashback to his goons pouring gasoline on everyone and burning the place down.

When Archer meets Adam, he has a flashback to Mikey on the carousel.

 

G is for… Guns

The IMFDB has full details.

The film opens with Castor using a sniper rifle.

The viewer later learns Castor uses his own gold plated matching pistols that get presented to him in a case.  When he and Archer get into the shootout in the hangar, he doesn’t know his gun is empty and tries to shoot Archer.  Wouldn’t he know he’s out?  Or is it just a ploy to get Archer closer so he can stab him?

Archer of course has his service weapon, as do all the other agents.

The prison guards have their own weapons.

When the FBI storms Sasha and Dietrich’s place, they use grenade guns.  There’s also basically an all-out war and it seems like almost everyone involved dies except for Castor and Archer.

Jamie picks up a gun and winds up shooting her dad.  Castor also makes a crack about how his daughter wouldn’t miss so wide.

Shootouts in the film include the FBI and Castor in the hangar, Archer and the prison guards as he takes their weapons for his use, Sasha and Dietrich’s place, Archer and Castor at the church, then Archer and Castor’s crew at the church which is filmed so poorly it’s unclear what’s even happening because it’s all close ups and slow motion.

Considering there are so many shootouts, Castor is depicted as an assassin, and Archer is a skilled agent, it’s amazing the movie is as long as it is.  The two of them should have killed each other early on.

 

H is for… Helicopters

The FBI eventually brings its helicopter to the airport to chase the Troy plane, which is especially notable considering the only FBI vehicles up to that point are trucks, which wouldn’t be able to do much once the plane gets in the air.

This helicopter is also used to break the flap on the plane’s tail, which is an awesome way to use the helicopter as a weapon.

Another helicopter brings Archer-as-Castor from the FBI building to the prison.

The prison helicopter chases Archer on the prison’s roof, but gives up once he leaps into the water to escape.

 

I is for… Improvisation

Archer has to be clever in order to escape the super maximum security prison, where the prisoners wear metal boots that are magnetized to the floor.  He asks around and the only time the boots are removed is when the prisoners are given electroshocks.  So, he picks a fight to get taken to the shock room, and while waiting his turn he asks for a cigarette.  After his boots are removed he uses the cigarette to burn a guard, and the other prisoner in there (a former enemy) helps him escape.  From there, from using the table as a sort of shield, to getting the computers in the control room to give him information, to getting to the roof, everything is basically improvisation.

Doves flocking around the church are used to distract Castor.

During the speedboat chase, Castor uses the anchor as a club.  Similarly, once the boat crashes, various pieces of it are used as weapons.

Ultimately, Archer uses a harpoon gun to kill Castor, but first he simply stabs him with it, apparently realizing he wouldn’t be able to get off a shot.

 

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

The Troy airplane crashes through the hangar wall.

After the surgery, when seeing his new face, Archer smashes the mirror with his IV rack.

One of Castor’s friends throws himself needlessly through a plate glass wall or door during the shootout at Sasha’s.

Pollux gets thrown through the window of the roof and crashes through a floor.

 

K is for… Kill Count

It’s unclear who Archer kills or wounds in the prison.  Of course it would go against his training, but no one knows he’s him.  He also may shoot FBI agents at Sasha’s; it’s hard to tell.  He definitely kills Castor’s two goons in the church.

 

L is for… Limitations

Archer has to get used to the changes to his body that make him appear to be Castor, such as shorter hair, less weight, less body hair.  It must take some time.  Same for Castor trying to get used to Archer’s bulkier body shape after his surgery.

Archer is also on a timeframe; once he’s in the prison he has two days to get the information from Pollux.  This isn’t a lot of time to practice being Castor, and he almost blows his cover by telling the first person who talks to him at the prison that he—“I” corrected to “Archer”—put him away.  Pollux is immediately wary, so Archer has to think quickly on his feet to convince him he’s Castor, which includes a lot of “Whoo!” and a “Watch your mouth” when someone swears.

Hugely limiting of course is the fact that after Castor kills everyone involved, there’s no one who knows that Archer is actually wearing Castor’s face.  No one.  He’s stuck in the prison with no hope of help.  Once he escapes, he doesn’t have shoes or money.

 

M is for… Motivation

Initially Archer’s motivation is apprehending Castor to both stop his terrorism and also avenge Mikey’s death.  Later he needs to find out the location of the bomb.  After things go so horribly wrong, he wants to get back his body and his life, and apprehend Castor.   Maybe not even apprehend, maybe just finally kill him.

Castor seems to enjoy his life of crime; there doesn’t seem to be anything personal he’s doing, he’s just causing mayhem and Archer is the one trying to put a stop to it.  It’s unclear why Castor takes the shot at Archer in the beginning.  Once Castor is wearing Archer’s face, he clearly wants to just play with Archer’s life.  He diffuses his own bomb to make Archer appear to be a hero, and he uses this new power and leverage to take out his terrorist competition, or as it’s put, the “whole gamut of global terrorism.”  He wants to use the protection and resources of the government to get his rivals.  Archer’s boss doesn’t like the new methods, and wants to terminate the operations, which is why Castor exacerbates his heart attack.

 

N is for… Negotiations

Maybe as a further illustration of the characters, there isn’t a lot of negotiation that goes on in the film.

Archer tries to get Castor’s associates including Dietrich and Sasha to give up the details of the bomb, but all he gets is that something will happen on the 18th.  Once Pollux is back in custody they try to get him to open up, but Castor can just discuss the plans with him in secret.

 

O is for… One Liners

Castor to Archer: Try terrorism for hire.  We’ll blow shit up.  It’s more fun.

Archer, after Castor tells him he kills his partner, superior, and Dr. Walsh: You killed them?

Castor: Beats paying the bill.

Castor, to Pollux, trying to get him to like the new plan: Think about me—this nose, this hair, this ridiculous chin.

Castor, impersonating Archer on TV: Interception.  Now our side’s got the bomb.  Sorry.

Dietrich, after the needlessly long “I want to take his face…off” discussion with Archer-as-Castor: No more drugs for that guy.

Castor-as-Archer to Jamie: Dress up like Halloween, and ghouls will try to get in your pants.

Dietrich: Damn, my place is getting fucked up.

Castor, after a less-than-friendly visit with Eve at the hospital after she knows about the swap: Lies, mistrust, mixed messages… This is turning into a real marriage.

Castor-as-Archer at the church: I’m Castor.  That’s Archer.

Sasha: And I’m bored.

 

P is for… Profession

Sean Archer is an award-winning member of the greater Los Angeles FBI anti-terrorism team.  He’s obviously been chasing Castor for a long time; they’re even on a first name basis.  He has “lived and breathed [Castor] for years.”  He works with a supportive team that tries to celebrate Castor’s capture with him.

Having said that, and knowing he must be good at his job, he makes several mistakes once he’s wearing Castor’s face.  He plays his hand to Pollux awfully quickly; he gets the information from him and thanks him and walks away, so of course Pollux is going to know his suspicions about him not really being Castor are right.  He also calls Castor to let him know he escaped from the prison.  Um…why?  Hasn’t Archer ever heard of “element of surprise”?  He also—for an unfathomable reason—tells Castor’s associates the passcode to his security.  Archer endangers his whole family and for what reason?

 

Q is for… Quagmire

The conversation between Castor and Archer at the prison nicely illustrates just how much trouble Archer is now in, considering Castor’s using his body and no one knows about the switch, and Archer is stuck in the high security prison surrounded by guys who hate Castor.  It’s not even clear if Archer would have come up with his escape plan so quickly if Pollux hadn’t been released and rubbed it in his face as he left.

 

R is for… Reality/Suspension of Disbelief

Basically this is one of those films where the viewer’s comprehension of reality has to be checked at the door when the ticket is purchased.  You know those bins to collect used 3D glasses?  Have one of those set up for people’s brains as they enter the theater.

To begin with, Archer is way too close to the Castor case to even be on it anymore.  There’s no way he can be an objective, thinking agent about a terrorist that shot him and killed his son.  Another specialist should have been brought onto the case and Archer moved on to something else.

Obviously the surgery is the centerpiece of the film, and it’s the part of the film that makes no sense whatsoever, and has no sort of grounding in reality.

First off, face transplant surgery is almost impossible.  It’s been tried in the real world, and it doesn’t work very well.  Absolutely advances have been made, but certainly nothing like seen in the film, with a seamless transplant.  This all pushes the film slightly into science fiction.

The part where Dr. Walsh discusses the “easy” parts of the surgery is where everything that makes no sense is kind of highlighted.  First off, Archer is hairy.  The backs of his hands are even hairy.  They’d have to put hair plugs all over Castor and hope that they grow in time, or implant hairs one by one.  They’d have to shave Archer’s body so he can pass as Castor, or maybe Nair off the hair on his hands.  Walsh also describes Archer as having “love handles,” so he what, puts those onto Castor’s body so he can pose as Archer?

Also, Castor is described as being an unresponsive “turnip” but then proceeds to take over the entire place.  He even sits bolt upright in the bed.  Miraculous recovery or terrible medicine?

Walsh mentions the blood type difference, and says Pollux won’t notice that discrepancy, and of course the blood type is what finally convinces Eve of the switch.  But if the blood types didn’t match, there’s basically no way the face transplant would work at all.

The surgery is totally off the books, so no one outside of three people know about the swap.  That’s obviously a terrible idea.  Also, how do Archer’s partners plan to free him once he learns the location of the bomb?  How would they get the clearance to free “Castor” from prison?  Would they tell everyone about the surgery?

There was no time for a trial; Pollux and then Castor were thrown into that maximum security prison just because.  Even though they’re obviously guilty, there would still have to be a trial before being placed in a prison like that.  And would they put Castor into a prison with so many people he’d once screwed over?  Maybe it’s only the two, but that seems like two too many considering how many prisons there are to choose from to keep him away from people.

Let’s face it—Nicolas Cage and John Travolta look nothing alike.  Okay, they’re both tall white guys with brown hair and light eyes.  …and that’s it.  Dr. Walsh says something about bone structure, but it’s even visible on the monitors during the surgery that Archer’s face and neck are much broader than Castor’s.  In order to get them to look exactly alike, there’s a lot of bone reconstruction that would have to happen.  Futuristic technology or not, it’s ridiculous.

No doubt Archer and Castor have different teeth.  Walsh doesn’t seem to mention that at all.  Most people probably wouldn’t notice the teeth difference, but Pollux and Eve should.  Teeth are unique, which is why they’re use to identify bodies.  Either Castor or Archer has got to have a filling or space or crooked spot that someone close to them would realize is no longer there.

Would Castor have been given pain meds as a turnip?  He doesn’t seem to be in pain at all when he wakes up, but acknowledges it later.

The process is stated to take only a few days—maybe as little as two—for recovery.  But Archer only has two days to get to Pollux.  So how quickly does Castor heal that he can be posing as Archer before Archer has a chance to attempt to contact his partners?  (which, again, how would he convince anyone to give him a phone call, or would they somehow be able to check in with him every so often?)

Archer’s coworkers don’t seem to realize that Archer doesn’t care about the death of his partner and that he gloats about diffusing the bomb.  One coworker even comments on the stick being taken out of his ass.  So….a room full of highly trained agents wouldn’t become at all suspicious, especially after the married man gropes a coworker?  Similarly, this man in his cold marriage puts the President of the United States on hold rather than his wife.   These actions are (obviously intentionally) 180 degrees from a similar scene early in the movie, and no one seems to notice.

Archer is able to use the control room in the prison to help him escape, but how does he know what anything does?

I’ve mentioned it twice already, but why on earth does the helicopter outside of the prison give up on finding Archer-as-Castor?  He has to come up for air eventually, the water seemed clear and not too rough, there wasn’t a storm, and a helicopter can sit and wait as much as it wants.  So why not wait for “Castor” to come to the surface to breathe?  Even if he swam under the support beams and to the other side of the prison, he’d still be visible against the water for the helicopter to see eventually.  There’s no foliage for him to hide under while out in the water.

Eve explains that a “top surgical team from DC” is on the way to reverse the surgery so Archer can have his face back, but wasn’t Walsh’s technology and technique the only way to successfully complete the surgery?  Especially after Castor tries to cut Archer’s face off when he realizes he’s about to lose.  There should be scarring or something, at least.

I don’t understand why Archer just walks into his house at the end, with his family barely anticipating him.  His family wasn’t present when he was released from the hospital or wherever he was?  Do they not care or were they not allowed?  Or has he already been home and we’re seeing the reception for Adam?

It’s also unfathomable that he brings with him Adam—from where, isn’t Archer recovering from surgery?—and offers the kid Mikey’s room without discussing anything with his wife and daughter.  They all loved and miss Mikey, of course they do, but this child of their greatest enemy can’t replace the boy who was lost.  They know nothing about the kid—who no doubt will have a lot of psychological scarring considering the environment in which he was raised—and he knows nothing about them.  Insane that there would be no discussion beforehand.  What if Archer had already promised the kid a lot of stuff and Eve told him no?  It would crush Adam.  How would he even be given custody of the kid?  See the first point up there about Archer being too close to the case, let alone taking in his enemy’s kid.

 

S is for… Sidekicks

Other than his family, Archer doesn’t have any sidekicks.  He’s totally on his own until he convinces Eve of the swap, and even then she doesn’t really do anything.  Jamie does more by wounding Castor when he takes her hostage.

 

T is for… Technology

State-of-the-art futuristic technology is needed for the plastic surgery for it to be successful.

A microchip is used to match their voices.

The prison has a magnetic field with location-sensing boots to isolate individuals.  The boots can be locked in place.

Jamie mentions email, which is notable only because the movie was made in 1997 but had to have been filmed earlier, when email was still a fairly new thing for anyone not involved in IT.

 

U is for… Unexpected Romance

Fortunately there’s no surprise lovin’ in the film, though Castor does take a liking to Eve, and it doesn’t seem to be just because he’s supposed to be her husband.

 

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

The FBI Jeep in the beginning is used to try to slow down the plane, but they play chicken and the Jeep veers off.

The FBI helicopter is used to land on the plane’s tail flap, causing it to break.  Ingenious.

An honorary mention goes out to the rolling table Archer uses in the electroshock room to both shield himself from bullets and also ram into a guard.

Another honorary mention goes out to the birds outside the church, which are nudged into flight to distract Castor.

The speedboats during the final chase scene are repeatedly crashed into each other and used to cut each other off.

 

W is for… Winning

Archer winds up throwing Pollux through a roof window, and he eventually smashes into the bottom floor.

Castor and Archer are reduced to hand-to-hand combat using pieces of the smashed boat as weapons, until Archer picks up a harpoon gun and stabs Castor in the stomach.  Castor has his hand around the harpoon so it can’t be fired into him, but eventually Archer prevails and is able to shoot Castor with the harpoon.

Meanwhile Castor had tried to cut Archer’s face off so he couldn’t get it back.

 

X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See A Doctor

In a movie with so many guns and shootouts, Archer manages to survive basically unscathed except for a wound in his side and getting shot by Jamie.  Even Castor only gets a knife to the leg.

Of course, Archer does go see a doctor, but it’s his wife, and he’s only getting blood samples drawn until they prove he’s him, and then Eve offers to treat the wound in his side.

 

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

Obviously, if Castor had been apprehended sometime after Mikey’s death, he wouldn’t have been able to plant bombs and share secrets with Pollux.  Pollux doesn’t appear to be able to function in the real world without Castor.

Also, even though he’s a turnip, is it really not policy to restrain the crazy assassin/murderer/terrorist in Walsh’s clinic?  Strapping him down just as a precautionary measure would have probably kept him from getting free and demanding the surgery and then killing everyone.

 

Z is for… Zone, In The

Honestly, no one really seems to be in any sort of professional-and-plotting-zone.  Archer makes terrible decisions and is only lucky Castor doesn’t come out on top.

 

So yeah.  Face/Off.

It’s an action film that makes utterly no logical sense, but it’s still surprisingly entertaining.  Unique elements include the opening fight between Castor and Archer that would be the climax in another action film, and of course the face swap versus a body swap.

There is also some weirdness, such as the FBI agents in the beginning never actually shown being shot; there were just cuts away that wound up just looking awkward.  Archer’s leap from the prison roof to the water took six separate shots/camera angles to show.  The “face…off” exchange between Archer and Dietrich was unnecessarily long, maybe to show how much Archer is tripping on the drug Castor’s friends make him take?  Or maybe in case the audience still by this point didn’t understand the title of the film relative to the actions of the film?  There’s a lot of slow motion during the fight scenes, which while used for effect really just, well, slows things down.

The pacing of the film also slows way down towards the end.  The scene in Dietrich and Sasha’s apartment feels as if it goes on forever.  The whole thing with Adam being Castor’s kid makes it drag more, and needlessly.  Archer’s conversation with Eve about their first date is long and also unnecessary.  The church scene is enormously unnecessary considering it makes no difference that the boss dies; Archer and Castor could have a confrontation literally anywhere else and it wouldn’t have made a difference.  The slow motion and close ups in the church likewise make the scene interminable.  At least twenty minutes could be knocked off the movie and the end result would be pretty much the same.

But, reality and pacing aside, it’s not a bad film.  Travolta and Cage are great, and if a person is in the mood for a lot of guns and some fun, Face/Off is a good movie to choose.

For another take, check out the review done by The Nostalgia Critic.