Face/Off [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (28th December 2023).
The Film

John Woo's career leading up to the release of "Face/Off" in 1997 is marked by his transformative impact on action cinema. Woo initially gained recognition in Hong Kong cinema during the 1970's and 1980's. His early career was characterized by a series of successful collaborations with actor Chow Yun-fat, producing iconic films such as "A Better Tomorrow" (1986) and "The Killer" (1989). These films, known for their stylish gunplay, kinetic pacing, and exploration of themes like brotherhood and morality, established Woo as a trailblazer in the action genre. His trademark use of slow-motion, dual-wielding gunfights, and symbolic motifs, including the recurring use of doves, became hallmarks of his directorial style. Woo's success in Hong Kong garnered international attention and led to his inevitable transition to Hollywood in the early 1990's. Before "Face/Off," Woo directed "Hard Target" (1993) and "Broken Arrow" (1996), which laid the groundwork for his signature blend of high-stakes action and emotional depth. "Face/Off" solidified Woo's reputation as a master of the action genre and remains a pivotal point in his illustrious career.

"Face/Off" stands as a testament to the director's prowess in delivering high-octane, stylized action with a unique twist. The film, starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, explores the themes of identity, morality, and the blurred lines between hero and villain. While "Face/Off" received both acclaim and criticism, its distinctive blend of intense action and psychological depth makes it a standout entry in the action genre.

One of the film's strongest elements is its innovative premise. The plot revolves around FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) and terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), who undergo a face transplant, leading to a literal exchange of identities. This sets the stage for a gripping cat-and-mouse game where the two characters must navigate each other's lives while maintaining their own objectives. The concept allows for a unique exploration of identity and the impact of one's actions on their persona, adding a layer of complexity not often found in typical action films.

Woo's signature style is evident throughout the film, it's replete with his trademark slow-motion sequences, dual-wielding gunfights, and balletic choreography. The action is choreographed with precision, and Woo's use of symbolism, such as the recurring motif of doves representing peace in the midst of chaos, adds depth to the visual storytelling. The director's ability to blend intense action with emotional weight is on full display, creating a visceral experience for the audience.

The performances of Travolta and Cage are central to the film's success. Travolta adeptly portrays the tortured hero striving to maintain a sense of morality even as he inhabits the persona of the villain, while Cage revels in the over-the-top antics of the antagonist turned anti-hero. Their ability to convincingly portray each other's characters adds an extra layer of intrigue to the narrative, and their chemistry on screen is palpable. Additionally there are a series of fun supporting actors on display here including Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain, Nick Cassavetes, Colm Feore, CCH Pounder, Margaret Cho, Thomas Jane, and in a not so fun way knowing what we know now we have Danny Masterson basically playing himself; a rapey boyfriend...

While "Face/Off" excels in many aspects, it is not without its flaws. Some may find the film's premise too far-fetched, requiring a suspension of disbelief that may be challenging for certain viewers. Additionally, the film's runtime could be considered excessive, with certain scenes feeling drawn out. However, these issues are subjective and do not overshadow the overall strengths of the film.

"Face/Off" is a triumph of action cinema, showcasing John Woo's directorial flair and the compelling performances of its lead actors. The film's exploration of identity, morality, and the duality of human nature elevates it beyond a mere action spectacle. While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, those who appreciate a unique blend of thought-provoking themes and adrenaline-pumping action are likely to find "Face/Off" to be a memorable and engaging cinematic experience.

Following the success of "Face/Off" John Woo's Hollywood career entered a new phase, marked by both triumphs and challenges. While "Face/Off" solidified his reputation as a maestro of action cinema, Woo faced mixed results with subsequent Hollywood projects. "Mission: Impossible II" (2000) showcased his flair for intense action sequences but received mixed critical reviews. The director continued to explore his signature themes of honor and brotherhood in "Windtalkers" (2002) and "Paycheck" (2003), but these films did not achieve the same level of critical acclaim as his earlier works. Despite facing commercial and critical challenges, Woo's impact on Hollywood action aesthetics remained undeniable. His influence on directors and the action genre persisted, and his unique directorial style continued to inspire filmmakers globally. While his Hollywood career post-"Face/Off" may not have been a seamless ascent, it underscores Woo's commitment to evolving as a filmmaker and contributing his unique vision to the ever-changing landscape of cinema.


Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 mastered in 4K 2160p 24/fps using HEVC codec and enhanced with HDR10 and Dolby Vision, Kino once again delivers a solid 4K presentation from the film's original camera negative. The picture is decently sharp, colors are natural looking, the film's cinematography shines here with exceptional depth and texture. Film grain is present and the transfer maintains the filmic look to a tee, this film hasn't looked any better and this new 4K makes a worthy upgrade.


Two audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its 5.1 audio and the result is about as bombastic as any 90's over-the-top action film could get. Dialogue is crisp and clear, but the surround activity is where this track shines, the score is immersive, the subtile details are well mix, and the explosions and gun play buzz around with intense complexity. Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired.


Kino Lorber has included a decent amount of supplements that include three audio commentaries, deleted scenes, a documentary, a featurette, and the theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these extras.


This disc features the film in 4K UHD.

The first audio commentary is by Director John Woo and screenwriters Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. The track covers Woo's reaction to the original script in 1993 and how it was originally a sci-fi futuristic film, Woo passed on the project mainly because he wasn't confident enough to work on a special effects movie. After "Broken Arrow" (1996) had finished he was re-approached this time the setting had changed and the film was set in modern day focusing on the human drama set amid an action thriller which interested him and finally got him onboard. Woo talks about giving the actor's freedom to create the characters and be involved in the process and comments on working with the cast which he had a great time doing. The writers comment on the motivation to make the film and in creating something where the bad guy is as interesting as the good guy, on setting up the difference between the two early on and other script issues such as the various changes that occurred over the years and over the 35 drafts that were written among other production issues such as shooting action sequences, the use of slow motion and choreographed action, etc.

The second feature-length audio commentary is with the film's screenwriters Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. They take us on in-depth examination of the film, it's story, narrative structure, plot points and set-ups as well as through the development process and covering the various changed that were made. They also talks about the character motivations and dealing with interesting and complex characters as well as what Woo brought to the production. There's some repetition here but one interesting aspect of this track is their genuine surprise that the studio and everyone involved in the film took it seriously for such an out-there concept.

The third feature-length audio commentary is a new track that features Action Film Historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema. These passionate experts on Hong Kong cinema comment on Woo's career and offer some cool insights into the history of the production, they talks about how Woo's style translated over to Hollywood and the impact this film and his style had on action films among other things.


This disc features the film in standard HD.

This disc also features the same three audio commentaries as on the previous disc and also features:

A collection of 7 deleted scenes with optional commentary by director John Woo and screenwriters Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, in the track they comment on the scenes and on why the were cut out of the film. These scenes can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' function and include:

- "Castor Kills the Janitor" (0:36) after Castor sets the bomb he kills the Janitor who questions why he's there.
- "Archer Weeps" (1:09) Sean remembers his son and weeps at the loss.
- "Childhood Lessons" (1:05) Castor and Pollux remember childhood lesson while they're in prison.
- "Hideaway Shootout" (2:03) is an extended version of the shootout with some additional shots.
- "Archer vs. Caster Finale" (2:12) is an extended version of the finale with some additional shots.
- "Will Dad be Dad Again" (0:11) Jamie asks her mom if Dad will be the same again after the final fight scene.
- "Alternate Ending" (1:08) Sean sees Castor's face in the mirror.

The major extra on this disc is the "The Light and the Dark: Making Face/Off" a 5-part documentary (64:20) and includes:

- "Science Fiction/Human Emotion" in this clip we get a look the creation of the script and wanting to make something different as we trace the production's history originally set up at Warner Brothers then being sold to Paramount and also getting the involvement of Woo. Looks at the process of getting green lit as the filmmaker's approach the project from a human drama point of view set amid an action thriller style movie.

- "Cast/Characters" focuses on the casting of the film and on the filmmaker's vision for the leads. Also looks at what Travolta and Cage brought to the production and how the film appealed to them as actors getting to play each other, also looks at some of the support cast and the guns as characters.

- "Woo/Hollywood" takes a closer look at the level of action that Woo brings to the table and his style including some of his trademarks that he adds to the film whether slow-motion gun-play, camera moves or his white doves/pigeons. The cast and crew also talks about how great he is at designing the movie and on shooting the scenes, stunts, numerous complicated shots, the idea behind the prison and the loft shootout as well.

- "Practical/Visual Effects" takes a look at the effects of which were mainly practical in terms of stunts for the boat sequence and how the various element came together for that scene as well as looking at the face swap effects and life-like dummies made for the operation scene.

- "Future/Past" Woo comments on the film's ending and how it originally tested as the cast and crew talks about the emotional impact of the film and on their journey making it.

"John Woo: A Life in Pictures" featurette (26:03) and takes a look at Woo's background in China and Hong Kong, getting a chance for an education and his initial involvement in the Hong Kong film industry leading up to being a director and making the movie to the United States and making films in Hollywood. It's a rundown of his career and for fans is an interesting clip to check out.

Finally the disc also include the film's original theatrical trailer (2:08)


Packaged in a 2-disc keep case housed in a cardboard slip-case.


Kino delivers a worthy 4K upgrade, a new audio commentary, plus all the old Paramount legacy extras. If you're a fan of the film then it's a no brainer addition to your collection.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A


Rewind DVDCompare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, amazon.de, amazon.it and amazon.es . As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.