Face/Off Blu-ray Review
PictureWell even if the movie doesn't blow you away (which it should) then the picture might. Presented here on Blu-ray we get a very nice 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. The detail from the production is well-preserved, better than you would have ever seen before, with everything from the facial close-ups to the clever action sequences given a fresh new lease of life. You almost feel like you are watching a brand new production. The only downside to this is that some of the movie goofs are more apparent (like the fact that some of the stuntmen are wearing wires). Still, it is undeniably good, with resounding clarity, no unintentional softness and negligible grain, even on the darker sequences. The colour scheme is quite broad and obviously lively given the explosive set-pieces, and all of the tones are rendered realistically. Blacks are solid and make for excellent shadowing and night sequences and overall it is one of the better back-catalogue transfers that I have come across recently, despite the movie being well over a decade old. If you're considering an upgrade from SD-DVD, then the video presentation is grounds alone.
SoundTo accompany the movie we also get a suitably explosive DTS-ES 6.1 track (as well as a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 EX offering), which provides the same solid service for the aural aspects of the production that the video did for the visuals. It's a powerful mix, providing the dialogue - from the excellent banter between the two leads to the quieter moments - clearly and coherently, predominantly across the frontal array. The key elements of the track, however, are clearly the effects and score, the former being given the full breadth of this DTS sonic array and coming across as if your living room has been prepped for a scene personally by Woo himself (check out the surround use for the doves and boats during the explosive finale, and the LFE for the explosions, it's superb). The explosive shootouts clearly provide the best material to be presented as well, and shine not only in terms of effects coverage but also with respect to the score, which really comes into play during these action scenes. With some classic Woo tinkling, particularly in the quieter moments, this is easily the best score Woo has created and easily the best audio representation of not only this, but arguably any of his movies.
ExtrasAlthough we do not get any Blu-ray Exclusive stuff, or even High Definition exclusive material, we do get all of the Special Features ported over from the 2007 HD-DVD release (and, previously, the 2-disc Standard-Def DVD Special Edition release). First up there are two Commentaries, both featuring the Writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, with the former having the additional input of the Director John Woo himself. I assume that the writers were drafted in to allow Woo, who still clearly finds speaking English difficult, to come across as slightly more coherent. Unfortunately the result is that you get two very similar Commentaries, with little new input offered in the second, writers-only effort and Woo's interesting contributions being stifled by his companions' dominant interjections.
There are Six Deleted Scenes as well as an Alternate Ending, all offered with Optional Commentary by Director John Woo et al. First up we get Nicholas Cage as Troy, killing a janitor with a cool knife, and Travolta as Archer crying at the memory of his dead son. The former is quite enjoyable, the latter a bit contrived. Then there's a great, more violent Extended version of the terribly scored shootout in the apartment (with 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' still annoyingly drowning out the gunshots). You can clearly see the extra gunshots and body impacts and fans will have to check this out. There's also an Extended scene from after they come off the boat at the end, with a much more brutal fight between the two protagonists. This too is definitely worth checking out. The short (i.e. one line) extra scene put in after this fight was unnecessary, and the Alternate Ending is just plain strange. Although it could never have been (logically) used, it certainly adds a much darker tone to the end. As extra footage goes, this is eight minutes of quality stuff that fans will largely love. Easily the highlight of the extras.
The Light and the Dark: Making Face/Off is a mammoth, comprehensive documentary that takes over an hour to dissect the production, from its inception as a sci-fi story to its final realisation as a John Woo action vehicle. Split into 5 sections: Science Fiction/Human Emotion, Cast/Characters, Woo/Hollywood, Practical/Visual Effects and finally Future/Past, this offering covers every aspect of the making of this movie, complete with plenty of revealing Behind the Scenes Footage, some nice cast and crew contributions and only a limited amount of final film footage. Easily more engaging and informative than the Commentary, this is well worth your time and fans should be salivating around now.
John Woo: A Life in Pictures takes the best part of half an hour to explore the career of Woo, from his Hong Kong masterpieces to his transition into Hollywood, entirely narrated by the man himself, who, quite remarkably, manages to coherently tell his own life story. Watching this only makes you wonder why they stifled Woo during the Commentary by having him partnered up with two other contributors, and it is clear that this is the kind of thing that fans were hoping to have more of in the Commentary. Still, it is nice to have much of it presented here (in arguably an equally accessible format) and fans will definitely enjoy this honest and unglamorous addition.
Finally we get the Original Theatrical Trailer. It should be noted that, whilst none of the Extras are exclusive to the format, per se, they are still presented in HD and this, for the most part, is a significant advantage.
VerdictFace/Off is a superior action thriller, taking original sci-fi elements and weaving them into a cleverly contrived plot about face and personality-swapping in a classic tale of cop versus criminal. With some truly memorable performances by Travolta and Cage, as well as Director John Woo at the absolute peak of his Hollywood game, what we get is a surprisingly intelligent explosive action vehicle, brimming with balletic gunplay and snappy wordplay. Given the treatment it deserves on Region Free US Blu-ray this action classic comes with a superior transfer and a boisterous audio track, as well as a bucket-load of truly worthwhile extras. Fans should have no hesitation in upgrading from SD-DVD to this, particularly if all they have suffered with till this point was the original DVD release, and newcomers (the few that are out there) should strongly consider a blind-buy, few will fail to enjoy this excellent movie.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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