Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Woo
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Wood
Edited by
Music byJohn Powell
Distributed by
Release date
  • June 27, 1997 (1997-06-27) (United States)
Running time
139 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million[2]
Box office$245.7 million[2]

Face/Off is a 1997 American science fiction action thriller film[a] directed by John Woo, written by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, and starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.[8]

Face/Off was the first Hollywood film in which Woo was given major creative control. It earned critical acclaim for the performances by Cage and Travolta and its stylized action sequences. The film earned $245 million worldwide, making it the 11th highest-grossing film of 1997, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Sound Effects Editing (Mark Stoeckinger and Per Hallberg) at the 70th Academy Awards. Since its release, the film gained a strong cult following and it is considered by many as one of John Woo's best films.[9][10]


FBI Special Agent Sean Archer survives an assassination attempt by Castor Troy, but the bullet penetrates Archer's chest and strikes his son Michael, killing the boy. Six years later, Archer's vendetta against Troy culminates in his team ambushing Troy, who is with his younger brother and accomplice Pollux at a remote desert airstrip. Troy goads Archer with knowledge of a bomb located somewhere in Los Angeles set to go off in a few days, before being knocked into a coma before Archer can learn more. Pollux, in custody, affirms that the bomb is real but refuses to reveal its location.

In secret, Archer reluctantly undergoes a highly experimental face transplant procedure by Dr. Malcolm Walsh to take on Castor Troy's face, voice, and appearance. Archer-as-Troy is taken to the same high-security prison where Pollux is being held. He manages to convince Pollux that he is Troy, and gains information on the bomb's location. Troy unexpectedly awakens from his coma and discovers his face missing. He calls his gang, and they force Dr. Walsh to transplant Archer's face onto him. Troy then kills the only people who know of the transplant. At the prison, Archer-as-Troy prepares to tell his colleagues of the location but is surprised when Troy-as-Archer appears. Troy-as-Archer gloats that no one knows of the transplant, and that he will take over Archer's life to ruin it before getting his face back from him.

Pollux is freed when he willingly tells Troy-as-Archer of the bomb's location, and Troy-as-Archer disarms the bomb. Troy-as-Archer earns admiration from the FBI office and becomes close to Archer's wife Eve and daughter Jamie, whom Archer had been neglecting while chasing down Troy. Back at the prison, Archer-as-Troy escapes after staging a riot and retreats to Troy's headquarters. He meets Sasha, the sister of Troy's primary drug kingpin, and her son Adam, who reminds him of Michael. Archer-as-Troy discovers that Adam is Troy's son. Troy-as-Archer learns of Archer-as-Troy's escape and hastily assembles a team to raid his headquarters.

The raid turns into a bloodbath and many FBI agents and several members of Troy's gang, including Pollux, are killed, while Archer, Sasha, and Adam are able to escape. Archer's supervisor, Director Victor Lazarro, blames Troy-as-Archer for the numerous slayings. Troy-as-Archer, furious over Pollux's death, kills Lazarro and makes it look like a heart attack. Troy-as-Archer is promoted to acting director. Archer-as-Troy finds safety for Sasha and Adam. Then he approaches Eve and convinces her to test Troy-as-Archer's blood to prove his identity, since the two have different blood types. After testing the blood and being convinced of her husband's identity, Eve tells Archer-as-Troy that Troy-as-Archer will be vulnerable at Lazarro's funeral.

At the ceremony, Archer-as-Troy finds that Troy-as-Archer has anticipated his actions and taken Eve hostage. Sasha arrives, and a gunfight ensues; Sasha manages to save Eve after taking a bullet. Archer-as-Troy promises a dying Sasha that he will take care of Adam and raise him away from criminal life. In a fight between the rivals outside, Jamie shoots and injures Archer-as-Troy. Troy-as-Archer flees the church with Archer-as-Troy pursuing him. Troy-as-Archer briefly takes Jamie hostage, but she escapes by stabbing him with the butterfly knife that Troy-as-Archer had given her for self-defense. Troy-as-Archer reaches the docks and commandeers a speedboat, and Archer-as-Troy follows and commandeers one of his own.

A chase ensues, that ends when Archer-as-Troy forces Troy-as-Archer to the shore by collision. With the boats grounded, Archer-as-Troy bests Troy-as-Archer in a melee fight. Troy-as-Archer attempts to mutilate his (Archer's) face to taunt and distract Archer-as-Troy, but Archer-as-Troy instead gains the upper hand and kills Troy-as-Archer by impaling him with a spear gun. Backup agents arrive and address Archer-as-Troy as Archer, having been convinced by Eve of Archer's true identity. After the face transplant surgery is reversed, Archer returns home, where he adopts Adam into his family, keeping his promise to Sasha.



Face/Off was a spec script which writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary optioned to Joel Silver and Warner Bros. in 1991. The option expired in 1994 and the project was purchased by Paramount Pictures. American director and producer Rob Cohen was originally set to direct the film but when the project was in a turnaround Cohen left to direct Dragonheart (1996).[11][12] John Woo became attached in 1996.[13] Various actor pairings were considered for the parts of Sean Archer and Castor Troy, such as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Douglas and Harrison Ford, and Alec Baldwin and Bruce Willis.[14]

Johnny Depp wanted to play Sean Archer but passed on the role after reading the script.[15][16] John Woo instead hired John Travolta and Nicolas Cage to play those characters.[17] Michael Douglas served as an executive producer. Werb and Colleary have cited White Heat (1949) as an influence on the plot.[13] With an $80 million production budget, Face/Off made heavy use of action set pieces including several violent shootouts and a boat chase filmed in the Los Angeles area. The boat scene at the end of the film was shot in San Pedro.[18] Calling the brothers Castor and Pollux is a reference to Greek mythology; Castor and Pollux are the twins transformed by the ancient Greek god Zeus into the constellation Gemini.[19]


Professional ratings
Review scores

The Face/Off soundtrack was released by Hollywood Records on July 1, 1997, the week following the film's release.[21] This was the first film to be composed by John Powell and the score was produced by Hans Zimmer.

All music is composed by John Powell, except as noted

1."Face On" 4:57
2."80 Proof Rock" 4:29
3."Furniture" 7:12
4."The Golden Section Derma Lift" 3:15
5."This Ridiculous Chin" 6:51
6."No More Drugs for That Man"John Powell, Gavin Greenaway7:27
7."Hans' Loft"John Powell, Gavin Greenaway3:34
8."Ready for the Big Ride‚ Bubba" 3:53
Total length:41:42

Several pieces of music and songs were used in the film but not included in the soundtrack. These include:


Home media

Face/Off was released on Region 1 DVD on October 7, 1998. A 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD was released on September 11, 2007, and it was also released on the now-defunct HD DVD format on October 30, 2007, in the United States.[22]

The film was released on Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on October 1, 2007, by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and was released in the United States on May 20, 2008, by Paramount Home Entertainment.[23]

The film was released on Ultra HD Blu-ray by Kino Lorber in December 2023, featuring a new 4K scan of the film.[24]


Box office

Face/Off was released in North America on June 27, 1997, and earned $23,387,530 on its opening weekend, ranking number one in the domestic box office ahead of Hercules.[25][26] It went on to become the 11th highest domestic and 14th worldwide grossing film of 1997, earning a domestic total of $112,276,146 and $133,400,000 overseas for a total of worldwide gross of $245,676,146.[2]

Critical response

John Travolta in 1997
Nicolas Cage at the Deauville American Film Festival in 2013
John Travolta and Nicolas Cage received universal acclaim for their performances.

The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes records that 93% of 95 critical reviews were positive, with an average rating of 7.80/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "John Travolta and Nicolas Cage play cat-and-mouse (and literally play each other) against a beautifully stylized backdrop of typically elegant, over-the-top John Woo violence."[27] On Metacritic, the film received a score of 82 out of 100 from 26 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[28] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[29]

The role reversal between Travolta and Cage was a subject of praise, as were the stylized, violent action sequences. Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four and remarked: "Here, using big movie stars and asking them to play each other, Woo and his writers find a terrific counterpoint to the action scenes: All through the movie, you find yourself reinterpreting every scene as you realize the 'other' character is 'really' playing it."[30] Rolling Stone's Peter Travers said of the film, "You may not buy the premise or the windup, but with Travolta and Cage taking comic and psychic measures of their characters and their own careers, there is no resisting Face/Off. This you gotta see."[31] Richard Corliss of Time said that the film "isn't just a thrill ride, it's a rocket into the thrilling past, when directors could scare you with how much emotion they packed into a movie."[32]

Barbara Shulgasser of the San Francisco Examiner called the movie "idiotic" and argued that "Woo is clearly an imaginative man, and there is no doubt that he can concoct six ways to do any given piece of business ... a good director would choose the best of the six ways and put it in his movie. Woo puts all six in. If you keep your eyes closed during a Woo movie and open them every six minutes, you'll see everything you need to know to have a perfectly lovely evening at the cinema."[33]

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing (Mark Stoeckinger and Per Hallberg) at the 70th Academy Awards, but lost to another Paramount film Titanic.[34] Face/Off also won Saturn Awards for Best Director and Best Writing, and the MTV Movie Awards for Best Action Sequence (the speedboat chase) and Best On-Screen Duo for Travolta and Cage.

It has been labelled as part of the "holy trinity" of Nicolas Cage action films, along with Con Air (1997) and The Rock (1996).[35][36] In 2022, Cage said the film had "aged beautifully."[37]

Face/Off is said to have inspired Infernal Affairs. However, Infernal Affairs director Andrew Lau wanted to have a more realistic situation; instead of a physical face change, Lau wanted to have the characters swap identities.[38] The concept of "bian lian" or "change face", a technique traditionally used in Chinese opera, may have been used here to depict the fluid and seamless morph of Chen and Lau's characters' identities between the "good" and "bad" sides. Infernal Affairs in turn has spawned several adaptations, notably The Departed directed by Martin Scorsese, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.


Paramount Pictures announced in September 2019 plans to remake Face/Off with a new cast. David Permut will be executive producer, with Neal Moritz to produce and Oren Uziel to write.[39] In February 2021, it was reported that Adam Wingard would direct and the film would be a sequel to the original.[40]


  1. ^ Attributed to multiple references:[3][4][5][6][7]


  1. ^ BBFC. "Face/off". www.bbfc.co.uk. Archived from the original on January 2, 2021. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Face/Off (1997)". Box Office Mojo. August 29, 1997. Archived from the original on January 27, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  3. ^ "THE ORAL HISTORY OF FACE/OFF, NICOLAS CAGE'S INEXPLICABLE SCI-FI MASTERPIECE". Inverse. June 27, 2022. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  4. ^ Chappell, Caitlin (March 16, 2022). "How the Adam Project's Face/Off Reference Came to Be". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  5. ^ Martinovic, Paul (June 27, 2019). "Face/Off is Still The Craziest Action Film of Its Era". Den of Geek. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  6. ^ Squires, John (June 7, 2022). "Adam Wingard Updates on 'Face/Off' Sequel; Will Nicolas Cage Return?". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  7. ^ Hermanns, Grant (May 3, 2022). "Face/Off 2 Update Shared By Nicolas Cage". Screen Rant. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  8. ^ Turan, Kenneth (June 27, 1997). "John Travolta and Nicolas Cage get under each other's skin-—literally-—in John Woo's return to form, 'Face/Off'". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 4, 2017. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
  9. ^ Taylor, Andrew (June 27, 2022). "'Face/Off' Went Full John Woo by Channeling His Classic 'The Killer'". Collider.
  10. ^ McGrotty, Andrew (April 14, 2022). "Best John Woo Movies, Ranked". Movieweb.
  11. ^ "15 Peachy Facts About Face/Off". June 27, 2017.
  12. ^ "The oral history of 'Face/Off,' Nicolas Cage's inexplicable sci-fi masterpiece". June 27, 2022.
  13. ^ a b Christopher Heard. Ten thousand bullets: the cinema of John Woo. Los Angeles: Lone Eagle Publ, 2000. ISBN 1-58065-021-X
  14. ^ Phipps, Keith (March 29, 2022). "8: Action Cage". Age of Cage:Four Decades of Hollywood Through One Singular Career. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9781250773036. As various filmmakers considered the film, pairings like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Douglas and Harrison Ford, and Alec Baldwin and Bruce Willis, came and went.
  15. ^ "A deep dive into 'Face/Off': The best, most absurd action film ever made". September 10, 2019.
  16. ^ Phipps, Keith (March 29, 2022). "8: Action Cage". Age of Cage:Four Decades of Hollywood Through One Singular Career. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9781250773036.
  17. ^ "Face/Off Production Notes". Retroramble. Archived from the original on July 16, 2019. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  18. ^ "Face/Off". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  19. ^ "5 Character Names That Give Away Movie Plots". May 31, 2014. Archived from the original on July 30, 2018. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  20. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Review: Face/Off - John Powell". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on September 26, 2013. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  21. ^ "Face/Off Soundtrack CD Album". CD Universe. Archived from the original on March 12, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  22. ^ Perenson, Melissa J. (January 18, 2007). "New HD Disc Titles, New HD Disc Technology". PC World. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  23. ^ "Breaking: Paramount Unveils Blu-ray Launch Plans". High-Def Digest. April 29, 2008. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  24. ^ London, Rob (October 4, 2023). "Nicolas Cage, John Travolta Thriller 'Face/Off' Gets 4K Blu-ray Full of Special Features". Collider. Retrieved November 2, 2023.
  25. ^ "'Hercules' not strong enough to edge 'Face/Off'". The Bismark Tribune. July 1, 1997. p. 13. Archived from the original on May 12, 2023. Retrieved May 12, 2023 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  26. ^ Brennan, Judy (June 30, 1997). "'Face/Off' Has Early Edge on 'Hercules'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  27. ^ Face/Off at Rotten Tomatoes
  28. ^ Face/Off at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  29. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  30. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 27, 1997). "Face/Off (review)". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  31. ^ Travers, Peter (June 27, 1997). "Face/Off (review)". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on March 2, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  32. ^ Corliss, Richard (June 30, 1997). "One Dumb Summer: Reviews". Time. Archived from the original on December 9, 2008. Retrieved November 20, 2008.
  33. ^ Shulgasser, Barbara (June 27, 1997). "Trading Faces". San Francisco Examiner. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  34. ^ Garner, Chris (March 24, 1998). "A 'Titanic' winner". Iowa City Press-Citizen. Gannett News Service. p. 17. Archived from the original on May 6, 2023. Retrieved May 6, 2023 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  35. ^ "Con Air Honest Trailer Celebrates Peak Nicolas Cage". Screen Rant. June 6, 2019. Archived from the original on February 14, 2021. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  36. ^ "Hollywood Theatre Series Celebrates the Best of Nicolas Cage". Archived from the original on August 13, 2020. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  37. ^ VanHoose, Benjamin (March 18, 2022). "Nicolas Cage Says He Rewatched 'Face/Off' to Prepare for New Role: 'That Movie's Aged Beautifully'". People.
  38. ^ "无间道的幕后花絮". www.1905.com (in Chinese). Archived from the original on October 20, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  39. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 9, 2019). "Paramount Putting A New Face On Action Hit 'Face/Off'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on September 9, 2019. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  40. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (February 11, 2021). "'Face/Off' Facelift To Be Delivered By 'Godzilla Vs Kong' Director Adam Wingard at Paramount". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on February 12, 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2021.