WTF Happened to Face/Off?

Face/Off ranks as the most universally acclaimed of director John Woo’s North American output. While Hard Target is a cult classic, and Broken Arrow was a solid hit, 1997’s Face/Off was the first time Woo got to really flex his action chops, being granted creative control by the studio. It’s his only American film that comes close to matching his Hong Kong classics like The Killer and Hard-Boiled. The result was a star-driven action extravaganza that became one of the biggest worldwide hits of the year.

In it, John Travolta plays Sean Archer, an FBI agent looking to avenge the death of his son at the hands of a terrorist for hire named Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). He manages to catch Troy, but not before the terrorist places a bomb somewhere in Los Angeles, leading to a wild plot. Archer will take the catatonic Troy’s face and infiltrate a maximum security prison in order to find out the location of the bomb from Troy’s incarcerated brother. Of course, Troy soon wakes up and has the top-secret procedure replicated, taking Archer’s face and establishing himself as a hero with the FBI bureau. He also takes Sean’s place with his family, leading to a daring escape, multiple shoot-outs, doves and tons of explosions.

Indeed, Face/Off is the kind of star-driven action movie they don’t make anymore. A film like Face/Off would be made for a fraction of the budget now, and it’s unlikely that two A-listers as big as Travolta and Cage were at the time would be affordable. While Adam Wingard and Nicolas Cage have teased a sequel, without Woo at the helm, it seems like an iffy proposition. In this episode of WTF Happened to this Movie, which is written and narrated by Dave Davis, and edited by Juan Jimenez, we dig into how the film was based on a high-profile spec script with many stars attached at various times. We dig into how Travolta and Cage ended up playing the leads and the film’s enduring place in pop culture.

Does Face/Off hold up twenty five years later? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.