What The Film!? – ‘Face/Off’

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What The Film?! is a weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the plot holes Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by comedy writer Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try and pull the proverbial wool over our eyes.

If you know a film with major plot holes that you feel needs to be exposed, tell us! Email utgjames@gmail.com with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.

This Week’s Movie: FACE/OFF

Hey, fellow UTG Fans! Today I, Dane Sager am happy to be the first out of the door with UTG’s first Nicolas-Cage-November post! Now, almost everyone on the UTG staff list is a huge and die hard Nicolas Cage fan and I am happy to help out with this month. Aside from myself and Justin (of Reasonable Remakes and For The Love Of Film fame), UTG writers Josh Hammond and Tyler Osborne will be writing pieces on their favorite Nicolas Cage movies.

I didn’t see this one. I think it’s Peggy Sue Got Married. I could be wrong.

I would like to get this out of the way right now; I am not a huge fan of Nicolas Cage because I like bad movies, nor do I like his movies in an ironic way (as I am prone to do with my vaguely hipster tendencies). I love Nicolas Cage because he’s the movie equivalent of Russian-roulette but instead of one bullet, the gun is completely loaded but with a different type of projectile in every single chamber; even when you’re aware of him and what he tends to lean to, you have no idea what he’s going to do. Nicolas Cage was originally cast in 2008’s The Wrestler, but he stepped down thinking that Mickey Rourke (who ultimately received an Oscar Nomination for his role) would do better in the role.

The guy is an icon. He not only knows his limits (none) but when he sees that a role is bad for him, he steps down. A year ago, Nicolas Cage was fired from Michel Gondry’s 2011 film The Green Hornet because he insisted on doing his role with a Jamaican accent. His role was ultimately given to Christopher Waltz, although anyone who goes into The Green Hornet knowing this can see that the villain was almost tailored to him.

Waltz does this scene admirably, but Cage would have clearly stole the show. Maybe that’s why he was fired.

1996’s The Rock, 1996’s Con Air, and 1997’s Face/Off came out within a few months of each other. Prior to this, Nicolas Cage hadn’t really stretched his legs into the action genre and has said in interviews that he picked these movies at this point in his career because he was told he wasn’t an action star. Cage, being the actor least likely to shy from challenges accepted and shot the three action movies back to back, being directed by action director icons Michael Bay, some guy who wishes he was Michael Bay, and John Woo (respectfully).

While these movies all have their own redeeming qualities (The Rock teams up NiCage with 007 himself, Sean Connery, Con Air with my second favorite actor John Cusack, and Face/Off‘s redemption is in its overwhelming retardation), the fact is that these were huge tentpole features from large studios because Nicolas Cage was in them. At this point in his career, Nicolas Cage was at the same point Jeremy Renner was about a year ago. He was a respected actor who had done some high-quality movies that to this day are still fantastic, examples being 1987’s Raising Arizona, 1992’s Honeymoon In Vegas, and 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas (not a sequel, seriously). While a lot of younger readers may be unfamiliar with a time prior to Twitter, Tumblr, or when Nicolas Cage became a joke, I have seen Nicolas Cage transition from a leading man, a dramatic actor who stole the show in every movie he made, to a walking unwarranted punchline. I saw 2005’s The Weather Man opening day and it is still in my top 10 list.

With his archery stats, he knocked out all the assassin’s guild missions in Skyrim.

1997’s Face/Off was created at the peak of Nicolas Cage’s late 1990’s success. In it, Nicolas Cage plays a GI-Joe styled terrorist, a crazy man with almost no real motivation outside of “destroy everything for the sake of destroying”. He is the Joker to John Travolta’s Batman, except when Batman caught the Joker, Batman never had the idea to cut the Joker’s face off and wear it to go undercover and no one really knows that the Joker is really Batman. Yes, that’s seriously the plot of this entire movie.

Is it executed well? No. Absolutely not. The movie plays like a two and a half hour Metal Gear Solid cut scene, with every single possible cliché done to try and provoke emotion as possible and every single possible thing is stylized to the extent that everything in the movie is broken down into two categories: exposition and bullshit.

Wait, so like it’s a Solid Snake making program that…? What…?

The problem with this style of film making is that in the same way of baking or cooking. If I put every single sweet thing I can find into a chocolate cake to make it good, (sugar, agave, stevia, honey, et cetera) I don’t end up with a good cake, I end up with diabetes. That’s what Face/Off is. Face/Off is diabetes.

The very first line of dialogue sets the tone of the entire movie. John Travolta, while hunting down Nicolas Cage asks someone “Has there been any word from the LAPD intelligence, if there is such a thing? Oh, of course not, because we’re a covert anti-terroism team that is so SECRET THAT WHEN WE SNAP OUR FINGERS, NOTHING HAPPENS.

I take this back, Metal Gear Solid cut scenes are more subtle.

The first ten minutes are the only parts of the movie where Nicolas Cage plays the terrorist, being caught shortly after the intro and going into a coma. Once in a coma, John Travolta ends up cutting Cage’s face off and wearing it to go undercover to discover a bomb he’s placed in Los Angeles while at the same time, Nicolas Cage wakes up from his coma and starts wearing John Travolta’s face. At this point in the movie, Nicolas Cage is doing a parody of himself, acting as if he were someone else acting how Nicolas Cage would act and John Travolta is trying to act like Nicolas Cage and it is brilliant.

Once John Travolta’s character starts wearing Nicolas Cage’s face and goes undercover as him, despite being a bad-ass FBI agent, he totally forgets everything about fighting or being awesome. Once he goes to prison to meet up with Nicolas Cage’s brother, he gets his ass kicked because the FBI agent forgot how to fight apparently.

When this movie first started production, it was originally written to be an Arnold Schwarzennegger movie with Sylvester Stallone playing his opposite. In this context, the movie makes a lot more sense. Had this been something in the same vein as 1993’s Demolition Man, it would have probably have been a much larger hit. That didn’t happen because John Woo was hired. He decided to spice it up and hired John Travolta and Nicolas Cage as the two major leads, changing the whole tone and style of the movie.

Holy shit, The Punisher was in this?

This movie is a Pauly Shore/Rob Schnieder body swapping movie just with a 1990’s styled violence instead of slapstick. It’s Freaky Friday meets Mission Impossible II. At this movie’s core, it is the spy movie you wrote when you were eight years old.

AND THEN THE TERRORIST WAKES UP AND TAKES THE GOOD GUY’S FACE AND GOES TO THE GOOD GUY’S FACE AND TOUCHES THE GOOD GUY’S WIFE’S BOOBS. THAT’S CALLED DRAMA, I THINK.

Is this movie stupid? It’s really stupid. Is it worth it? The action sequences and special effects are incredibly impressive and mind blowing, especially when you realize how little CGI this movie used. You see that jet that crashed into an airplane hanger? In order to get that shot, they crashed a jet into an airplane hanger. It’s quite a spectacle, it’s just that the reason it exists and the way it’s executed is awful. So the action sequences are awesome? Not really. If you thought the plotline was the only poorly executed part of this movie, you’d be wrong four minutes in when Nicolas Cage shoots an FBI agent with a shotgun and the agent is thrown back against the wall and the wires aren’t hidden at all. But is it really worth it?

It absolutely is.

Dane once took fellow UTG writer Justin Proper’s face and wore it for a week or two. He lost it though. Justin, I am so sorry. You can follow Dane on Twitter and Tumblr!

GIFS COURTESY OF GIFOLAS-CAGE

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