Face/Off ★★★★

My problem with the idea of vulgar auteurism as a general principle is that so many of the films can feel like the directors just going beyond the text, and the text of the film basically being crap because he/she could't go further or more profound (Calum's Universal Soldier: DOR review kind of nails this problem). But that's why Face/Off does work, because its very much a religious film that matches its surreal aesthetic. I found it odd that Travolta could capture Cage by the end of the first reel, but then we see his home life with Joan Allen and his rebellious goth daughter. Perhaps cliches, but used well to involve us in this story. Face/Off then becomes about a man who must become his mortal enemy and embrace his own darkness in order to become a better man. Its telling that both Travolta/Cage better each other's lives in the process. As Travolta, Cage saves his daughter from an asshole boyfriend and makes him less of an asshole at work. And as Cage, Travolta learns to embrace his past, notably with his relationship with American fucking treasure Gina Gershon. The over-saturated finale is a literal resurrection. I was hoping at first that the narrative of Face/Off only took place over three days, given the church symbolism at the end, but it still works as a man who must go through a surreal hell of bullets.

Besides that, I think I might prefer the filmmaking of Woo's HK films, because some of the more ties to a 90s aesthetic can be somewhat limiting (the opening murder sequence did nothing for me). It of course shows up in the pure imagery of the action sequences—the references to both LANDY FROM SHANGHAI and THE GOOD/BAD/UGLY did not go unnoticed—in there's a beautiful quality of a speedboat blasting through fire that is both awesome (as in totally badass) and awesome (as in a moment of surreal awe). But I think some of the more standard exposition sequences fall not necessarily flat, but still exposition-y.

Someone asked me whether I thought the movie was funny or not. I found myself compelled by the narrative. I don't particularly laugh at Cage's performance here. I think his unhinged insanity to me is something that I find more profound than something to gawk at. I do think he's one of the great American actors working today, just in need of material that matches him at his best.