The definitive of how an Action/Thriller should be...
How can I start? Plain and simple, this film is just straight up bad ass. You have everything you would want in an action movie.
To really summarize this film in a humdrum style would be an injustice.
First you take 2 really good actors in Cage and Travolta, combined with a good supporting cast of Allen and Gershon, mixed with a bipolar style of filmmaker in Woo, and you get something really special.
Now when I say "bipolar" about John Woo, what I really mean is that his films are on an uneven level of bad or good. He'll have his good moments (A Better Tomorrow, The Killer), and his bad (Windtalkers, Hard Target). He just doesn't know what script to pick and choose... but with Face/Off, he succeeded immensely.
It really does have everything that you would want in an action movie... in any movie in really. Once you pop this in, you know what's expected: Action/Thriller... but what's not expected are the other elements that keep you coming back for more.
What Woo added in this is the dramatic factor... you actually CARE about these characters. You feel pain for Sean Archer and his wife and you want him to get his revenge. You want him to win so bad against this egotistical and demented Castor Troy that you bite down on your popcorn harder to see if he gets his just desserts... but that's what brings you to the other element...
Woo also added another layer of content that is so vital, yet so fun... which is that it is also a Dark-Comedy. Not like other action movies where they give you a one-liner that brings a smile to your face after the protagonist says something ironic after a mundane moment of a thrilling action sequence that has just happened, but you actually laugh out loud at some moments. That's why you also connect with Castor Troy. He's a devilish man, but sometimes he can be likable (in very few moments, mind you, he's still a horrible guy).
These reasons are why this film excels above and beyond the tagging of just another "Action/Thriller".
All of this brought together by Woo's great direction action sequences, great acting, and a pretty good score to boot, you will find yourself on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next.
I really do recommend that everyone see this film. Whether you are an indie kid looking for solace out of a film, or are just an average movie-goer looking for a dumb-fun movie, this is the film that everyone needs to view at least once. Trust me, you won't be sorry.
they don't make action movies like this anymore...
In the early 90's, there was a definite, consistent presence in action movies: slow motion cinematography, wild gun-play, and funny one-liners. Granted, there are still some of those today (2004), but it just wasn't the same as back in the day. Now there are so many special effects in the current action films that it drowns out what used to be the great style of a "popcorn flick".
Die Hard paved the way for these type of movies, and some of the offspring of this did well and did not. The Last Boyscout was one that did well. This was a very intelligent and fun action/thriller/buddy-comedy that can still be enjoyed to this day. Tony Scott is the master of under-appreciated action movies in the 90's, such as this and True Romance.
My suggestion is to get a 6-pack, go rent this movie, sit back and enjoy the ride.