Face/Off ★★★★½

Who else but John Woo could have directed this outrageous absurdity? Whether cop and crook saving babies through an extreme expenditure of ammunition or outlaw brothers in a jungle hell, insane action couched in sincere melodrama has always been the Woo way. And Face/Off delivers ample amounts of both.

The plot has more contrived gaps than a hunk of Swiss Cheese but Woo fills in those holes with cheese, charisma, and dual-wielded gold-plated pistols. Cast, writers, and director handle the ridiculous face-swapping premise with a gravitas that absolutely wasn’t required but makes Face/Off immeasurably better regardless. Cage is devouring entire sets as Castor Troy-as Sean Archer-as-Castor Troy, a performance encompassing unfettered hedonism, existential insanity, and sappy grief. Travolta is having an equal blast embodying Troy-as-Archer’s chameleonic family-man freedom. All the while, Joan Allen grounds both men’s journeys in emotional turmoil played completely straight.

That exaggerated yet effective heart is the thread tying together Face/Off’s frenetic mayhem, courtesy of a John Woo given a Hollywood playground and blank check. Beating Nolan to the punch by crashing a plane through a hangar? Sure. A prison escape detour to a super-max black-site with magnetic boots? Why not. Hair-raising speedboat chase/shootout/brawl? Let’s do it for real. As always, Woo stages his guns-blazing bullet ballets in distinct spaces before tearing those spaces to shreds in glorious slow motion, squibs, smoke, and sparks. Face/Off is aggressively silly in all the best ways you could want from an action blockbuster, with an extra helping of doves.