directed by John Woo
USA 1997

 

Some Westerners dig John Woo solely for the director’s action choreography. Many, however, hate his movies because the action or the emotions (perhaps even both) are “over the top”. Both the action-lovers and the Woo-haters miss the point.

Cinema is, first and foremost, a visual medium. John Woo was a champion ballroom dancer, so his visual style is graceful and kinetic, even in comedies like Once a Thief. Woo’s action sequences are not “over the top” because he’s not just interested in telling stories; rather, he wants audiences to absorb the pleasure of watching the human body in motion. Unfortunately, in an age when ballet and musicals are ghettoized as “gay” pastimes, few people know how to appreciate a Woo production with just their eyes.

With regards to the emotions on display in Woo’s movies, one has to understand that the Chinese director didn’t grow up in a society filled with detached irony. His childhood was mired in crushing poverty, and he’s very grateful for the charity extended to him by a Christian family that sponsored his education. Woo takes emotions at face value, and he’s unafraid to present unabashed sentiment (sentiment, not sentimentality). Take, for example, his comments about Nicolas Cage’s mirror-bashing scene in Face/Off. Cage asked Woo if he could say, “Fuck you!” to the other actors. Woo said yes. When Cage invested the scene with heart-rending despair, Woo said that he was shocked and almost cried.

Due to small budgets, rushed shooting schedules, and a variety of other reasons, John Woo’s Hong-Kong productions--even the best ones--have a certain sloppiness/unfinished feel. True, Face/Off doesn’t have Chow Yun-fat, but it has a completeness and emotional resonance that puts it at the top of Woo’s oeuvre with A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Once a Thief. The duality and male-bonding themes are there, but Face/Off also benefits from an examination of two families on opposite sides of the law. Female characters are often presented as comical sidekicks or bumbling meddlers in Woo’s movies, but in Face/Off, they’re as serious, tough, and passionate as the men. The opponents want to destroy each other, of course, but the resolution brings the families together in a way that heals them. After years filled with “heroic bloodshed”, Woo showed us the “heroic healing” in which he believes.

Yunda Eddie Feng

Posters

Theatrical Release: 27 June 1997

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Yunda Eddie Feng for all the Screen Caps!

(Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Paramount

Region 1 - NTSC

Paramount
Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 138 min 138 min
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.89 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.65 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Paramount

 

Bitrate:

Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition)

 

Audio DD 5.1 English, DD 2.0 surround English, DD 2.0 surround French

DD 5.1 EX English, DD 2.0 surround French, DTS 6.1 English

Subtitles Optional English SDH and Spanish Optional English, Spanish, and French
Features Release Information:
Studio: Paramount

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• trailer

DVD Release Date: 7 October 1998
keepcase

Chapters 40

Release Information:
Studio: Paramount

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• audio commentary by John Woo, Mike Webb, and Michael Colleary
• audio commentary by Mike Webb and Michael Colleary
• 7 deleted/alternate scenes
• The Light and the Dark: Making Face/Off
• John Woo: A Life in Pictures
• trailer

 

DVD Release Date: 11 September 2007
slim double keepcase

Chapters 40

 

 

Comments:

Video:
Both versions sport 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen video transfers. The 2-disc appears to be much cleaner and has fewer digital artifacts than the 1-disc. Colors are also richer with the 2-disc than the 1-disc. On the negative side, both transfers suffer from edge enhancement in some scenes.

Audio:
The 1-disc has DD 5.1 English, DD 2.0 surround English, and DD 2.0 surround French audio tracks. For its time, the 1-disc DVD gave viewers quite a kick with a still-impressive audio experience. The 2-disc keeps the French dub but upgrades the English to DD 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1. (It also seems like someone dialed up the volume when re-mixing the audio.) The new audio tracks sound cleaner and punchier than the old DD 5.1 mix, and the rear center channel adds to the immersion into the movie.

1-disc: Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.

2-disc: Optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.

Extras:
The 1-disc release has only a trailer.

2-disc Disc 1:
You can watch the movie with your choice of two audio commentaries. The first one is with John Woo and writers Mike Webb and Michael Colleary. The second one is with just the two writers. Though Woo and the writers are clearly in the same room recording the first commentary together, the writers’ comments on both commentaries sometimes sound so similar that I wonder what the point was of having two audio commentaries, especially when the second commentary repeats much of what John Woo says in the first yak track. Overall, it’s worth your while to listen to the commentaries if Face/Off is one of your all-time fav's, but you won’t miss out on much if you listen to only one of them.

 


Disc 1 has seven deleted scenes that are interesting to watch but wouldn’t have added anything to the movie. The alternate ending is rightly dropped; it belongs in a silly horror/sci-fi production, not an action drama. The deleted scenes have optional audio commentaries by Woo, Webb, and Colleary.

There are also previews for other Paramount products.

2-disc Disc 2:
“The Light and the Dark: Making Face/Off” is a five part, 60-plus-minute documentary that covers various aspects of the production. A lot of interesting tidbits are revealed, though there are overlaps with the audio commentaries and other extras. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes moments and additional deleted scenes that are not presented on Disc 1. Some of the actors and crew members contributed new interview material, though the interviews with John Travolta and Nicolas Cage were taken from when the movie was in production. Although the gushing about John Woo is a excessive, the participants shed light on some of the battles that they had with the studio.

“John Woo: A Life in Pictures” presents John Woo and his collaborators talking about his life and his career. Mission: Impossible 2 is featured a few times, though with the exception of a still photo, there is no reference to Paycheck, a movie that John Woo directed for Paramount and DreamWorks (which is now owned by Paramount anyway).

Finally, you get the same trailer on the 1-disc DVD.

--Miscellaneous--
The 2-disc set doesn’t have an insert with chapter listings like the 1-disc edition, but it has a cardboard slipcover.

Summary:
The new 2-disc set is better in just about every way than the previous vanilla release. Fans should pick this one up, no questions asked.

 - Yunda Eddie Feng

 



DVD Menus
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Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - RIGHT)
 

 
 

 

 


 

Screen Captures

(Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)
Paramount logo openings

 

 


(Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Paramount (2-disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


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2-disc SCE

Sound:

2-disc SCE

Extras: 2-disc SCE
Menu: 2-disc SCE

 
DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Paramount

Region 1 - NTSC

Paramount
Region 1 - NTSC

 





 

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