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Face/Off (1997)

In order to foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a facial transplant surgery and assumes the identity and physical appearance of a terrorist, but the plan turns from bad to worse when the same terrorist impersonates the FBI agent.


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 11 wins & 21 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Victor Lazarro
Buzz (as Jamie Denton)


Sean Archer, a very tough, rugged FBI Agent, is still grieving for his dead son Michael. Archer believes that his son's killer is his sworn enemy and a very powerful criminal, Castor Troy. One day, Archer has finally cornered Castor, however, their fight has knocked out Troy cold. As Archer finally breathes easy over the capture of his enemy, he finds out that Troy has planted a bomb that will destroy the entire city of Los Angeles and all of its inhabitants. Unfortunately the only other person who knows its location is Castor's brother Pollux, and he refuses to talk. The solution, a special operation doctor that can cut off people's faces, and can place a person's face onto another person. Archer undergoes one of those surgeries to talk to Pollux. However, Castor Troy somehow regains consciousness and now wants revenge on Archer for taking his face. Not only is Troy ruining Archer's mission, but his personal life as well. Archer must stop Troy again. This time, it's personal. Written by John Wiggins

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


It's like looking in a mirror - only not See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for intense sequences of strong violence, and for strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

27 June 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Face Off  »


Box Office


$80,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$23,387,530, 29 June 1997, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$112,225,777, 2 November 1997

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$128,000,000, 22 March 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| | (uncredited)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


At one point, Patrick Swayze was being sought for one of the lead parts. See more »


In the scene in the hall where there are is a circle of mirrors where Castor and Sean engage in a shootout, there is a mistake as the FBI agent fires at Castor. The FBI agent is holding an M16 or M4 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher. He fires two consecutive shots within a second of each other. This is impossible as the M203 attachment only holds 1 shell at a time and would take at least 5 seconds to grab another round and reload and fire again. See more »


Castor Troy: [while holding a gun to the pilot's head] Fly bitch!
See more »


Referenced in Gilmore Girls: Face-Off (2003) See more »


Ach, ich fühl's
From 2nd act of opera "Die Zauberflöte"
By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performed by Hungarian Festival Chorus and Failoni Orchestra, Budapest
Conducted by Michael Halász (uncredited)
Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz, soprano
Courtesy of Naxos of America
By Arrangement with Source/Q
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"Face/Off" - Identity crisis?
11 September 2007 | by See all my reviews

A movie about a hockey match, this isn't.

1997's "Face/Off," the third (and to this date, most successful) American feature from Hong Kong action director John Woo, is everything a fan of Woo's Asian work could possibly hope for. It's a loud, fast-paced, and spectacularly violent epic helmed by a master craftsman. And even with this ambitious third American feature, it is vastly on par with the director's Hong Kong work and is very easily one of the best films of his career.

Woo made a name for himself back in Asia as the director of hyper-stylized, hard-hitting pot-boiler action films like "The Killer" (1989) and "Hard Boiled" (1992), where he made an art form of dual-pistol-wielding gun-play and action shoot-'em-up. You want action? John Woo is your man to go to. He made his first American feature with Jean-Claude Van Damme in "Hard Target" (1993) and followed it up with "Broken Arrow" in 1996. Now we're at "Face/Off."

"Face/Off" stars a daring and intrepid Los Angeles F.B.I. agent named Sean Archer (John Travolta), who for the last six years has been on the trail of psycho freelance terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) after he killed Archer's young son. So when Archer finally captures Troy (who's put into a coma as a result) within the film's opening 20 minutes, Archer thinks it's the last of his arch-nemesis.

But of course it's not over, not by a long shot. The screenplay by writers Mike Webb and Michael Colleary throws us a curve-ball in the form of something write out of a sci-fi medical novel: to save L.A. from biological annihilation, Archer must become his enemy and learn the location of said biological payload. Archer trades physical identities with Troy bu undergoing a radical surgical procedure to get Troy's sociopath younger brother Pollux (Alessandro Nivola) to give up the goods.

However, Troy comes out of his coma and assumes Archer's identity as an F.B.I. man, a job he comes to love and abuses with joyful glee, and even gets cozy with Archer's neglected wife Eve (Joan Allen) and daughter Jamie (Dominique Swain). His first move is to destroy all the evidence that proves each man's true identity and seemingly leaves no way to reverse the procedures when he kills everyone involved in the mission (how sick and twisted is he, anyway?). His next plan is to systematically eliminate his old allies to afford protection for himself and his brother. In the meantime, Archer (as Castor) is left to rot in a federal prison that the Geneva Convention doesn't know exists and has to find a way to get out to defeat his nemesis once and for all, even if it means actually "becoming" him, and using Troy's old buddies to his advantage. You want to talk about identity crisis?

10 years after its release, this movie is still as balletic and energetic, action-packed and exciting as it was all those years ago. John Travolta and Nicolas Cage were perfectly cast as the perfect hero and perfect villain in what was one of the hottest action movies of that year. The only problem is, though, both actors enjoy switching their roles and playing off each other in a vicious blood feud, although it seems that Travolta was having the most fun here, leaving Cage a little hard-pressed to remain on the sidelines as the hero. Hot off their success in movies such as "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995), Travolta revels in Cage's bad guy performance (even if Cage is Cage and Travolta is Travolta - for only about 20 minutes each). Coldly sadistic and over-the-edge/brave and determined, you can tell who likes things best.

The film's action scenes, which there are plenty of, is where "Face/Off" chiefly excels at. Woo brings much of the gusto and gun-play loved by so many in his native land to a place that's foreign. Perhaps this is why his two earlier efforts may have been failures here in the U.S. (Yet, third time's a charm, right?) As if crises of identity weren't enough, Woo seemed to be going through a transformation himself, adjusting his craft for American audiences.

But with "Face/Off," Woo proves to be at the top of his game, since he has the right actors, the right action and special effects, and the right stuff to pull it all off.


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