"In Face/Off, John Travolta is an FBI agent and Nicolas Cage is a dangerous lunatic (he plays a terrorist). At one point Cage's character dresses up as a priest, headbangs his way into a church and grabs the ass of a girl singing in the choir. Then he and Travolta switch faces, literally. Everything about this movie is insane, is what we're saying."
Face/Off is the second American Heroic Bloodshed film by Hong Kong director John Woo, starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage playing an FBI agent and terrorist, as arch enemies fighting it out to see who can use the most guns at the same time. Oh, and then they switch places to save LA.FBI Special Agent Sean Archer (Travolta) has been pursuing his Arch-Enemy, terrorist-for-hire Castor Troy (Cage) for six years, ever since Castor sniped Archer's six year old son Michael dead during an attempt on Archer's life. After an intense gunfight, Archer captures Castor, putting him in a coma in the process. However, Archer is nonplussed to learn that before Castor's lights went out, he placed a bomb somewhere in Los Angeles.Theoretically, this would be where the movie completely jumps the rails - but that would assume it was ever on rails.In order to find where Castor has planted the bomb, Archer is forced to have Castor's face surgically transplanted onto him so he can get close to Castor's nerdy brother Pollux. Except, while Archer (now played by Nicolas Cage) is away, Castor wakes up from his coma and forces the doctors who performed the surgery to do the same to him, and then murders them and everybody else who knew about the operation (including Sean's best friend and partner Tito). With his new face, Castor (now played by John Travolta) begins inserting himself into Archer's life, including wife Dr. Eve Archer (Joan Allen) and daughter Jamie Archer (Dominique Swain).Although the film is a straight-up action flick with all the requisite high-speed chases, hidden bombs and hostage situations, it's also very much tongue-in-cheek.Not to be confused with the series Face/Off, a makeup-F/X reality competition on the SyFy Channel.
invokedActing for Two: And in brilliant execution, John Travolta and Nicolas Cage each spend time as Sean Archer and as Castor Troy.
Agony of the Feet: One prison guard is shot in the foot from below by Archer during the prison break.
The Alcatraz: A secret prison ("Erewhon" i.e, "Nowhere" spelled backwards) , where the prisoners are forced to wear magnetic boots to get locked into place. The prison and its name play into the film's only major The Reveal: as Sean Archer (played by Cage) is escaping the prison, he opens a door to walk outside to what he believes is a roof, only to find that it's a helicopter platform, and what lies down is not land, as Archer hopes, but sea. The prison really is "nowhere," it's on what used to be an oil rig.
All There in the Script: The script reveals a number of interesting facts about the main characters that were never mentioned in the film:
Castor Troy received a tattoo of the Sphinx on his tenth birthday. It also turns out that that was the day his mother died by overdosing. Though Castor had attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, he failed. Afterwards, he made a promise to protect Pollux. Hence the reason why Castor seems overly protective of Pollux.
Archer comes close to giving himself away by scratching his wedding band. Pollux is also clearly uneasy after telling Archer the location of the bomb because Archer smiles like himself, not like Castor.
Sasha Hassler is 35 years old, and met Castor Troy at a Pearl Jam reunion.
Castor Troy does not likebeing called a wimp, as shown in the script's version of the scene where he beats up Jamie's boyfriend. The script also suggests that he doesn't seem really fond of the boyfriend simply because Castor thinks he's a bit old for her, even though the real Archer is a few years older than Eve.
The script suggests Archer feels like he killed Tito and Lazarro, indirectly (albeit it was Castor Troy using his face).
Director Lazarro turns out to have formerly served in the Army as an admiral.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Castor Troy's gift box of contraband on the tarmac: two gold plated Springfield pistols, a bag of blue pills, sunglasses, 3 rolled cigarettes (or joints), 4 pieces of Bazooka Joe bubble gum, a switchblade, what appears to be a blue glass vial, and....a pack of Chiclets.
Art Major Biology: The face transplant runs on this. Sean Archer becomes Castor Troy and vice-versa through face transplant. Apparently we are supposed to forget that John Travolta (Archer) is 2" (5cm) taller than Nicolas Cage (Castor), or that their hairstyles do not match (for Archer, Travolta's buzz cut is modified by use of a haircut to match Cage's, but we never know about the reverse, other than potential use of styling gel). Don't ask how muscles, nerves, and blood vessels are connected so well that facial expressions are never compromised on either character afterwards. Or how the surgery is reversed for Archer in the ending after Castor's death.
Artistic License - Law: The warden at Erewhon warns new inmates that "the Geneva Convention does not apply here" to intimidate them, but because all of them are civilian criminals and not soldiers captured on the battlefield, it's a pretty empty threat.
Having a super-secret prison on US soil (or rather, on an offshore oil rig near US soil) where criminals are apparently held indefinitely without trial. A few years after this movie came out there arose significant controversy about the legality of detaining "illegal combatants" who were captured by US forces in foreign countries. From what we see, the people at Erehwon were all criminals captured on US soil. If they are all really that bad, there should be no legal or practical impediment to trying and convicting them in the courts and then sentencing them to life in prison.
Attempted Rape/Date Rape Averted: By way of the facelift, Castor Troy intends to ruin Archer's life. Even though his personality doesn't change and he's still a psychotic killer, rape is one crime even he finds too evil. In the midst of a heated phone call to Pollux, Castor sees Jamie's boyfriend attempting to rape her after parking his car in front of his house. He tells Pollux to call back, then rushes out, bashes the window, pulls Karl out of the car, throws him around, then forces him to apologize. (Then again, see Bed Trick below.)
Ax-Crazy: Castor Troy. Pollux is definitely insane as well, but much cooler and calmer.
Bad Habits: In Castor Troy's introductory scene, he plants a bomb in the Convention Center while disguised as a priest. Then he dances away and headbangs to a choir singing "Hallelujah", before stopping to grope a blonde choir girl. (In a deleted scene, he also kills a janitor who catches him in the act and makes it look like an accident)
Castor Troy: You know I never even enjoy the Messiah. In fact I think it's fucking boring. But your voice makes even hack like Handel seem like a genius. [proceeds to grope the choir girl and sing along with the chorus for a few lines. He then basically orgasms]
Becoming the Mask: Despite the premise, more or less averted save for one scene. When Archer starts fighting another prison to prove to Pollux that he is Caster, he comes dangeriously close to actually killing the man by bashing his face in with a serving tray. He snaps out of his state just become he does though, and is clearly horrified by what he was about to do.
Bilingual Bonus: The priest near the climax prays not just in English but also in Latin (with a little Greek) in the funeral. They are the Sign of the Cross, with some other Latin Prayers during a Latin Mass and the Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy).
Billing Displacement: Averted with the fact that John Travolta and Nicolas Cage are billed first in the credits, as the leads. However, they credit Travolta as only playing Archer and Cage as only playing Castor, the roles they are in at the beginning of the movie, and miss the fact that they actually spend more screentime playing the other character. Travolta should actually be credited as "Sean Archer/Castor Troy" and Cage as "Castor Troy/Sean Archer".
Bluff the Impostor: Happens to both Archer and Castor. For instance, Castor always refers to Archer's daughter Jamie as "Janie," to the point that when he walks in on her in her bedroom and addresses her as "Janie," he is forced to look at a pillow to realize his mistake. Likewise, when Archer sees Castor's son Adam and embraces him, he mistakenly calls him "Michael" because Adam reminds him too well of his own deceased son.
Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Castor and Archer are seen frequently reloading during shootouts and in the hangar standoff Castor toyingly tells Archer, "Well, you better hit me, Sean, 'cause you've only got one bullet left!"
Bring My Brown Pants: Archer refuses to give in to Agent Miller and Dr. Walsh's proposal for him to take Castor Troy's face to get information on the bomb from Castor, saying "I'll get his gang to talk! That's what I do!" Gilligan Cut to Archer roughly throwing two of Castor's men out of the observation room and Tito quipping "Damn! What is that smell?" as Archer grilled one of them so intensely that he shit his pants.
Cassandra Truth: When Archer is wearing Castor Troy's face, he ends up forcing himself to take alcohol and drugs with Castor's friends to maintain his disguise; upon doing so, he claims that he knows so much about Archer because he's sleeping with Archer's wife, and that he plans on taking Archer's face....off and wearing it. Due to the bizarre nature of the claim, Dietrich decides it's actually inebriated gibberish despite the fact that everything Archer said is absolutely true.
Casting Gag: Dietrich's sister name is Sasha. His actor Nick Cassavetes also has a daughter named Sasha.
The Cast Showoff: At one point during the opening chase sequence, Archer commandeers a helicopter to chase Castor Troy's plane. It almost makes sense to show off John Travolta's skills as a pilot (he owns several aircraft of his own and is Qantas' goodwill ambassador).
Chairman of the Brawl: Eve hits Castor with a chair when the Mexican standoff is broken to disarm him and keep him from shooting Archer.
Prior to the surgery, Dr. Walsh tells Archer that his and Castor's blood types are different, as Archer has O+ blood and Castor has AB- blood. Eventually, after all the efforts Archer has tried to make to warn Eve that Castor is impersonating him fail, he remembers that their blood types don't match and manages to convince her to take a sample of her "husband"'s blood, knowing that when she runs it through a hemoglobin test, she will find the blood type to be AB-. Once the blood test confirms to Eve that Castor is impersonating Archer, Archer-as-Castor uses the story of their first date to fully convince her.
Also, the voice chips that give Archer a Nicolas Cage voice and Castor a John Travolta voice when they acquire those respective faces end up proving a problem for Archer when he realizes he doesn't sound like himself.
Cheshire Cat Grin: When Castor strides into the prison visitor's room wearing Archer's face, he gives one of these to demonstrate how delighted he is that Archer is locked up in prison while he is a free man.
The Coats Are Off: Though this usually happens before a fight, Castor removes his jacket and rolls up his sleeves, singing "hallelujah" to himself while preparing to disarm "Sinclaire".
Cold Sniper: The opening flashback shows Castor Troy setting up a sniper rifle on a hill overlooking a carousel that Archer is taking his son Michael on. He takes aim, and when he gets a clean aim, he fires. The bullet ends up going through Archer non-lethally and kills Michael.
Combat Sadomasochist: Castor Troy looks like he's having an orgasm whenever he's doing evil things. For example, in the first chase and shootout, he has what looks like an o-face or a Slasher Smile as he pushes the beaten Agent Winters out the plane door in front of Archer, pistol to the back of her head, shouts "One of yours, Sean?!" and then proceeds to execute her to taunt Archer.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: It seems that large numbers of FBI agents, cops, security staff, and special agents are incapable of facing off against Castor Troy in a shootout. In the hangar gunfight, Castor offs the FBI agents like they were candy with just his twin gold-plated pistols (and at one point a SWAT officer's shotgun) until Sean Archer is taking him on one-handedly (for some reason the dozens of other agents stay out of the action once Archer and Castor have pistols trained on each other - but then again, Archer has a more personal vendetta against Castor than they do). Said agents should be much better trained to have the upper hand in a gunfight.
Not even the SWAT teams are immune given the number of agents at Dietrich's apartment who are shot while wearing paramilitary gear and submachine guns. The Los Angeles FBI field office has to be suffering a severe shortage of men to adequately staff it by the end of the movie.
Castor's gold-rimmed sunglasses that he wears at the airport prior to getting on the plane.
Each character when being portrayed by Travolta wears aviator sunglasses.
Cool Guns/Bling Bling Bang: Castor Troy's weapon of choice during the opening chase and shootout are a pair of custom gold titanium nitride plated Springfield Armory M1911-A1 pistols. Later, Archer-as-Castor ends up using them in the shootout at Dietrich's apartment while Castor-as-Archer must settle for Archer's old duty pistol. The pair that Dietrich gives Archer prior to that shootout is definitely a different pair, though, given that the pair Castor used at the hangar shootout were likely seized by the police and booked into evidence.
Sean Archer:[jams pistol to Castor's neck] Give up, Castor! Your time's up! [beat]
Castor Troy:[laughs] Well, you better hit me, Sean, 'cause you got only one bullet left!
Sean Archer: So do you!
Cynicism Catalyst: One sees that Sean Archer fell into this after his son's death, which has led to his obsessiveness and ruthlessness dealing with criminals, especiallyCastor Troy. He gets better with time.
Deadly Euphemism: "And stay away from downtown on the 18th. It's gonna be a little, uh, [grins]smoggy."
Death by Secret Identity: Invoked by Castor by admitting to Archer's boss Victor Lazarro about his true identity before triggering his heart attack.
Completely averted for Sasha as she dies without realizing that it's Archer she's saying her last words to, not Castor.
Defrosting Ice Queen: It appears that Archer was probably a pretty nice guy to work with originally based on his behavior in the opening flashback. Six years later, the death of his son has Archer acting like a jerk towards his fellow agents, and somewhat estranged from his own wife and daughter due to his personal obsession over stopping Castor Troy. Then he finds himself wearing Castor's face, and Castor ends up with Archer's face. Wearing Castor's face allows Archer to begin to realize just how severely his obsession with hunting Castor affects those around him, especially when one of the consequences is Castor receiving Archer's face.
Archer's son dies on the carousel when Castor's bullet passes through Archer's body and hits him in the head. Archer subsequently cradles his dead body.
Dietrich is shot in the neck by Castor while taking a bullet intended for Sasha, and Archer grabs him as he collapses.
When the Mexican standoff in the church is broken, both of Castor's enforcers are dead, and Sasha is lying mortally wounded on top of Archer. She manages to tell Archer to raise Adam for her before she takes her last breath.
As scripted, Pollux's death was originally this, as the script has Castor grab him, apparently trying to invoke this trope.
The computer file on Archer's son even references the trope:
Carousel Sniper Victim Murdered 9 September 1991 Damage Report: The boy died in the arms of his father, FBI Agent Sean Archer, on the carousel in Griffith Park. Castor Troy had intended to kill Sean Archer but the bullet traveled through him and struck Michael in the chest.
Dirty Cop: Castor Troy abuses his job as an FBI agent to get Pollux released from prison by having him "confess" the location of their big bomb so that Castor can "locate" it and play hero, as well as get rid of rival criminals and stealthily take Archer's place in his family.
Disposable Pilot: The "who's gonna fly the plane?" thingy is subverted by Castor Troy. When Archer shoots two of the plane's engines, they short out and set off the engine fire alarm. Castor promptly executes the pilot with a bullet....but it turns out he can't get the plane up in the air either as Archer had previously damaged the wingflaps with the skids on the police helicopter, so Castor instead frantically diverts the plane off the runway...and into a hangar.
Dissimile: "It's like looking in a mirror, only not."
Driven to Suicide: Castor attempts this after Archer kills Pollux, but Loomis walks in on him as he's about to shoot himself. Seeing "Archer" upset, he asks Castor what he's doing. Castor instead snaps and promptly shoots him in the face.
Erotic Eating: Castor Troy has a strong fetish for peaches, both around his girlfriends before he gets Archer's face, and around Eve and Jamie afterwards. He could even eat a peach for hours. It's enough of a fetish that the test line of dialogue utilized by Dr. Walsh to coach Archer into mimicking Castor's voice is a clip from an audiotape of Castor talking about his fetish.
Establishing Character Moment: The sequence prior to the airplane action sequence establishes who exactly our two leads are: Sean Archer is shown venting his frustrations on his subordinates at the FBI field office. Meanwhile, Castor Troy sets the timer for a massive bomb he calls "Sinclaire" (she will blow you AWAY!), then headbangs to Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus", and even gropes a blonde choir girl, practically looking like he's orgasming at that point. If you didn't get how much of a Magnificent Bastard Castor was from those few minutes, you must have been sleeping through it.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Castor Troy genuinely loves his eccentric idiot-savant brother Pollux. He refuses to kill him even after Pollux accidentally betrays their location to Archer by personally paying for the private jet (instead of letting one of their cronies do it) as most terrorists would have, sheds tears when Pollux dies and even ties his shoelaces for one last time before leaving.
Even Evil Has Standards: Zig-zagged with Castor Troy, an indiscriminately murderous scumbag. He beats up Jamie's boyfriend's for trying to rape her and gives her a knife for self defense. However, earlier in the film he also threatened to rape Jamie to her father's face. He shows that he's serious when, during the standoff in the climax, he licks her face while she thinks Troy is her father. In the opening Troy also shows shock when he accidentally shoots Archer's son, but when he visits the boy's grave with Archer's weeping wife he looks more bored than remorseful, and every scene with Troy's girlfriend indicates that he couldn't give a bent penny about actually raising his own kid. The only definite redeeming trait he ends up with is his love for his brother Pollux.
Every Boat is a Pinto: It's a John Woo film, what do you expect? If a boat crashed and DIDN'T turn into a ball of flames you'd be asking for your money back.
Evil Is Petty: At the end of the final battle, Castor-as-Archer realizes he's screwed, since Archer-as-Castor has him pinned to a wall with a speargun aimed at his bolt. He musters just enough strength to grab the bolt and tries to mutilate Archer's stolen face with a piece of shrapnel in one last act of hateful petty spite.
Eye Take: Several times with Castor - multiple times during the hangar shootout when he's reloading. Another one is an extreme close-up so that you can see a hint of anger building up in him when Lazarro confronts him after Pollux's death.
Facepalm: Archer's reaction upon discovering that the Walsh Institute is keeping Castor alive and on life support.
Fake Ultimate Hero: When Castor decides to have Pollux "confess" the location of their bomb so that he can "locate" and disarm it to "thwart" his own plan to get $10 million in exchange for being praised.
Faux Affably Evil: Castor Troy is very affectionate towards younger brother Pollux, and even has a much friendlier attitude and offbeat sense of humor when communicating with his fellow FBI agents than Archer ever has. That being said, Castor is also a career criminal who has done such things like amputate a victim's limbs before shooting said man in the face with his own gun and tossing his remains out of an airplane, and Castor is a thousand times more dangerous once he takes Archer's face and begins posing as him.
Fiery Coverup: When Castor visits Archer in Erehwon Prison to taunt him. He flashes a newspaper article in Archer's face headlined "Deadly Inferno at Walsh Institute". Cue flashbacks of Dr. Miller, Dr. Walsh, and Tito tied up, bound and gagged as Leo and Lars douse them in gasoline. Then a hand flicks a cigarette lighter and drops it in the puddle, causing a fire that destroys the lab.
Castor Troy: I torched all the evidence that proves you're you, okay? So, wow! Looks like you're gonna be in here for THE NEXT HUNDRED YEARS!! Now, I have got to go. I've got a government job to abuse and [whispers into Archer's ear] a lonely wife to fuck. Oh, I'm sorry...make love to! God, I miss that face!
"Freaky Friday" Flip: The main setup for the plot, except Archer and Castor's faces and voices are swapped, not the minds, but the effect is the same.
Glasses Pull: Castor Troy loves pulling his shades off in dramatic ways, especially when he's posing as Archer.
Good Is Boring: "Ahhh, yes. The eternal battle between good and evil, saint and sinners... but you're still not having any FUN!"
Good Vs Good: Archer-as-Castor finds himself in this situation during the apartment shootout as in addition to dealing with his own pursuit of Castor Troy, he has to deal with being shot at by the very FBI agents he is supposed to be working with
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Castor curses like a sailor but oddly doesn't like when other people curse at him.
Archer-as-Castor gives a couple in the prison breakout.
At the end, Archer has Castor pinned against a wall, and tries to fire a speargun into his gut. Castor catches the bolt and starts taunting Archer, who just snaps and cuts him off with a knee to the balls, causing Castor to lose his grip on the bolt and get impaled.
Which combines with a glorious Shut Up, Hannibal! when, after Archer knees Castor, he screams "DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!!!!" as the harpoon runs him through.
Jamie's boyfriend gets the receiving end of this when Castor beats him up.
High Concept: Sean Archer, top agent in the FBI Los Angeles field office, played by John Travolta, plays off against Castor Troy, most wanted terrorist in the United States, played by Nicolas Cage, and they have to impersonate each other while desperately racing to try and cause/prevent acts of terrorism, each being hounded within an inch of their lives by their own allies along the way.
Hired to Hunt Yourself: A twist variant: upon taking Archer's face, Castor is hunting "himself" (actually Archer).
Hypocritical Humor: "You watch your fuckin' mouth!" is one of Castor's most common catchphrases.
I Call It "Vera": Castor has a big bomb. Her name is "Sinclaire," and she is going to blow you AWAY!!
I Surrender, Suckers: Castor Troy pretends to surrender to Archer in the hangar standoff when it turns out Archer was bluffing him about his pistol having one bullet left. As he's breaking down, with Archer's pistol pressed to his forehead, he suddenly grins and replies "Well, I think you'd better pull the trigger, 'cause I don't give a fuck! [sings] I'm ready, ready for the big ride, baby!" and it turns out the whole time that he's been secretly drawing a knife from his back pocket. The trick fails to work on Archer, who catches it just in time.
While Archer is a little overboard criticizing the people for celebrating his original defeat of Castor Troy, he is right to point out the names of the people that were killed in the shootout are more deserving of the toast than him.
Likewise, one sees that Archer clearly has some points about being reluctant to undergo a surgery giving him Castor's face. His point being that there are a number of ways in which such an undercover operation could be bungled, like Castor coming out of his coma.
Joggers Find Death: If you freeze-frame when Archer logs onto his computer, you'll see that the first thing that comes up is a summary report on one of Castor Troy's earlier crimes. The details as gleaned from the file note that Castor hijacked a wealthy Swiss banker's private jet for $5 million in funds, tortured said banker by amputating both of his arms, before shooting him in the face with his own gun and tossing his remains out of the plane, where the body was found by a jogger in a local park.
Juxtaposed Halves Shot: The posters/covers juxtapose three quarters of both Nicolas Cage's and John Travolta's faces using shadows to split them down the middle, highlighting that both actors play Sean Archer and both play Castor Troy, also averts Misplaced-Names Poster.
Large Ham: Nicolas Cage and John Travolta spend the movie trying to top each other as both Castor and Archer. Both succeed.
Meaningful Name: While Pollux and Castor Troy are named for the Gemini twins, Castor also shares his name with a type of legume people often mistake for being some form of bean. Just by donning Archer's face, Castor is able to fool everyone into thinking he's the good guy.
Mexican Standoff: A very masterful one of these goes down in the church near the end of the movie. It ends in a Blast Out. Castor even lampshades the number of participants, laughing, "WHEE! What a predicament!"
My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Immediately upon entry into Erewhon Prison, Archer gets beaten up the Russian inmate Ivan Dubov, who has sought revenge against Castor ever since Castor had three-way sex with Dubov's wife and sister. Later inverted, when Archer recruits Dubov to help him escape by telling him he didn't actually do it.
Never Found the Body: Castor Troy is told that Archer has escaped from prison and is presumed deceased.
Castor Troy: Where's his body? I want to see his body.
Wanda: It hasn't been recovered yet.
Castor Troy:[angrily] "It hasn't been recovered yet"?! [beat] Get the LAPD on this!
Wanda: Even if he is alive, Castor isn't stupid enough to come back to this city!
Castor Troy: You-you must trust me. He's already here.
No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted with face replacements. Even though the doctor who originally performed the procedure is dead, the FBI has some of their best doctors flown in to reverse it on Archer.
Obvious Stunt Double: John Woo's love of slow-motion makes these instances very apparent, as what would usually be a quick shot with a lot of movement to hide the fact that it's not the lead actors now becomes a very clear shot of the double.... Most apparent one happens as Archer and Troy fall off the boat in the climax.
Odd Friendship: Much of Castor Troy's dialogue, especially at the hangar standoff, suggests despite everything he puts Archer through, he sees him in his own sick and twisted way as a friend. The way he suggests Archer be a terrorist for hire is like the equivalent to a teenager suggesting to his reluctant buddy that they blow up mailboxes for fun.
Archer, wearing Castor's face, is told he has a visitor at the prison. He is in the visitor's room, the door opens, and he comes face-to-face with....Castor Troy, wearing Archer's old face. To drive the point home, we have Archer just staring straight on for about 30 seconds, thinking "What?" as Castor smirks, then cockily strides towards Archer, and breaks into a grin:
Castor Troy: OOOOOEEE, you're good lookin'! Ya hot! [He advances on Archer] It's like looking in a mirror, only not. [beat]
Castor Troy: In a coma? Nothing like having your face cut off to disturb your sleep! Read the newspaper lately? [flashes a newspaper article in the real Archer's face headlined "Deadly Inferno at Walsh Institute" with Dr. Walsh's picture]
Sean Archer: You killed them?
Castor Troy: Yeah well, beats paying the bill, huh? Come on, uh, if a face lift costs five grand...[shows Archer's wedding ring on his hand]see anything you like!!???[cut to Tito bound, gagged, and being doused in gasoline]
Sean Archer: Tito! [A hand flicks a cigarette lighter and drops it in a puddle of gasoline, sparking a fire that spreads towards the hostages]
Castor Troy: I torched all the evidence that proves you're you, okay? So, wow! [looks at his watch] Looks like you're going to be in here for [in na-na voice] THE NEXT HUNDRED YEARS! [quietly] Now, I have got to go. I've got a government job to abuse and [whispers into Archer's ear] a lonely wife to fuck. Oh, I'm sorry...make love to! God, I miss that face!
The look on Castor and Archer's faces when they simultaneously realize the boat they are fighting on is about to violently crash.
In the plane chase, Archer sees Castor march his undercover agent into the cabin and cock the pistol he has trained to the back of her head, leading to a genuine moment of shock as he yells, "He's got Winters, goddamnit!" Then Archer swings around the plane and begins to pull up alongside the wing, when the cabin door opens and Castor pushes Winters out in front of him.
Castor comes dangerously close to giving himself away as an imposter on at least three occasions:
When he meets Jamie for the first time, he mistakenly calls her "Janie" (and one will notice that he refers to her by that name in the hangar standoff). She is understandably not pleased to find that Castor has "forgotten" her name, and Castor hastily looks at a bed pillow with Jamie's name on it before replying, "I don't think you heard me, Jamie. You got something that I crave." Castor also smokes, while Archer doesn't.
Jamie Archer: Clarissa left those here. Castor Troy: Oh, well I won't tell mom if you don't. [He lights a cigarette] Jamie Archer: When did you start smoking? Castor Troy: You'll be seeing a lot of changes around here. [blows smoke rings in Jamie's face] Papa's got a brand new bag! OW! [Jamie laughs. Castor slowly walks out of the room singing along to the music]
Castor uses Archer's job to cut a "deal" with Pollux to get him out of prison. The real Archer is shown to be a tough cop who never cuts any plea bargains with suspects, and certainly not with people like Pollux. Lazarro is quick to call Castor out on this. Castor narrowly dodges a bullet by replying, "Well, when all else fails, fresh tactics!"
Castor sees Pollux die in front of him, and understandably he breaks down in tears. Then Loomis sees him and says, "Sir why are you so upset? It's just Pollux Troy." Castor gets away by shooting Loomis in the face.
Throughout all this, one would think Castor's offbeat sense of humor and behavior especially around Eve would tip off that something was fishy about him.
Archer nearly gives away he's just impersonating Castor on a couple of occasions:
This starts as early as the moment he is dumped in jail and he recognizes an inmate who tries to talk to him:
Burke Hicks: What's the matter, pal? Dontcha remember the little people? [Archer turns to Hicks] Sean Archer: Burke Hicks. Burke Hicks: Yes. Sean Archer: I bust——-I believe Sean Archer busted you for stalking the UN Secretary General. Burke Hicks: Oh, no, Archer framed me! I had nothing to do with that. Word was you got wasted.
When speaking with Pollux, one notices that Archer is rather hesitant and a bit quieter when talking, probably because he knows he has to be extra careful not to say something that could blow his cover.
Archer is not used to the drugs that Castor normally takes, so when he takes drug-laced water at Dietrich's place he has a panic attack as his body starts rejecting them.
Papa Wolf: Ironically, Castor and Archer play this on each other's child. Castor beats up the boyfriend trying to rape Jamie in his car in Castor's driveway. Meanwhile Archer finds out that Castor has a son and Sasha is trying her best to raise Adam to avoid a criminal-free lifestyle also counts. Archer subsequently spends the shootout with Castor's SWAT team trying to protect Adam while also trying to keep his own agents safe and taking on Castor.
The movie does emphasize after the face switches that even though Castor Troy may be a sociopath and murderer, he is a human being capable of all kinds of emotion, just like Archer. This is best seen when Castor breaks down crying after seeing Pollux die, contemplate suicide, only to be stopped when he must shoot Loomis after Loomis catches him acting out-of-character, and then tie Pollux's untied shoelaces for the last time.
Also seen when Castor stops Jamie from being raped by her boyfriend in the driveway of Archer's house. He may be "helping" by giving a teenage girl a knife without any formal training and committing grievous bodily harm but it's still pretty heartwarming saying that an insane psychopath like Castor who does worse things like kill cops and plant big bombs is stopping this kind of thing.
Porn Stache: Castor Troy sports a thick mustache in the opening flashback as he smokes a cigarette and sets his sights on the carousel horse Archer is riding on with his son. It's obviously a false clip-on being used as a disguise, given that Castor is clean-shaven whenever his police mugshot is shown.
Prison Riot: Archer starts one in Erehwon to escape it after he finds out that Castor has taken over his life.
Psychotic Smirk: In order to stay in character, Archer does one while he is Castor and while he's drunk shown in this scene. Castor himself is fond of using these while posing as Archer.
Pun-Based Title: The title refers both to the fact that Archer and Castor's faces are removed and switched, and that they are moving towards an eventual face off against each other.
Punny Name: Castor and Pollux Troy. In Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were twin brothers of Helen of Troy. Additionally, they form the Gemini constellation, which is on the opposite side of the night sky from Sagittarius the Archer.
Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Subverted. Castor Troy beats up Jamie's boyfriend when the guy tries to rape the girl in his own driveway, apparently because the attempt disgusts even him. However, the rest of the film strives to portray him as a Hypocrite. Earlier in the film he gropes a blonde choir girl to "Hallelujah", and insinuates a rape threat on Jamie to Archer's face during hangar standoff ("Say, how is your daughter, anyway? Your... your darling Jamie, your little peach? Is she ripe? Ri-ripe-ripe-ri RIPE!!"). Later on he also licks Jamie's face while holding a pistol to her head to taunt Archer (while Jamie thinks he's her father because he's wearing Archer's face, no less).
Same Language Dub: Justified. After the plastic surgery is over, Archer is now played by Nicolas Cage but still has John Travolta's nasal voice. The surgery by itself doesn't change Archer's voice. To make sure Archer has Castor's natural husky voice, Dr. Walsh implants a microchip in his larynx.
Sanity Slippage: Archer struggles to keep his sanity while wearing Castor's face. For Castor, not so much, as he's already pretty psychotic even before taking Archer's face.
Sarcastic Clapping: Lars and Leo abduct Dr. Walsh and transport him to the Walsh Institute, where they find the faceless Castor sitting in a chair, watching the video recording of the surgery (according to the script, the surgery was recorded so that Dr. Walsh could undo Archer's surgery) and listening to classical music:
Dr. Malcolm Walsh: What's this about?
Castor Troy: Dr. Walsh! I was just enjoying some of your, uh, greatest hits here. Oh, and I hope you don't mind. I partook in some of your, uh, your groovy painkillers. You know, this is fabulous work. This is... [sees the surgery videotape finish] Bravo! Bra-fucking-vo! [claps] Oh, god, this is excellent! Bravo!
Dr. Malcolm Walsh: What do you want? [beat]
Castor Troy:[claps his hands three times. Castor's skinless face is reflected in Dr. Walsh's glasses] Take one goddamn guess.
Sexy Coat Flashing: When Castor "locates" and disarms Sinclaire, the animated graphic of a woman flashing a mink coat while audibly moaning, "Oh baby, oh!" plays over the words 'You disarmed me!'
Sharp-Dressed Man: John Travolta, whether playing Archer or Castor, spends most of his time wearing three piece suits.
Siblings in Crime: Castor and Pollux Troy appear to work together as this trope, based on a police file at the beginning that states that the two together are suspected of assassinating a Croatian ambassador (it reads "Number of hits suggests that Troy had a second shooter; possibly his younger brother Pollux").
Sneeze of Doom: Averted. After the surgery, Archer is warned by Dr. Walsh to be careful with the voice modification chip in his larynx that scrambles frequencies and transforms Archer's voice into Castor's voice, as a sharp blow or a violent sneeze could dislodge it, but it never happens (it does get dislodged near the end, but not by sneeze).
Shoot the Dog: Castor shoots Dietrich for telling the police about the bomb.
Signature Style: It's a John Woo movie. Therefore, the question is not a matter of asking, "Will the lead actors fire Guns Akimbo while flying through the air?" but "When will the lead actors fire Guns Akimbo while flying through the air?" This is answered within the first fifteen minutes, as Castor and Archer do fire twin pistols at each other during the hangar shootout.
Archer-as-Castor makes one◊ HELL of a Slasher Smile after taking drugs while seeking refuge at Dietrich's apartment and having a panic attack upon seeing his own reflection in the mirror.
The look on Castor Troy's face when he herds Agent Winters into the cockpit of his plane with a pistol to the back of her head for Archer to see that reads "Nice try sending me an undercover agent as my flight attendant, Sean!" He also has a pretty unsettling one when he's cutting his forehead and cheeks with a piece of shrapnel before Archer is able to impale him with the harpoon gun.
Soft Water: Archer-as-Castor leaps from the helipad of the oil rig into the sea, to no ill effect.
Something Only They Would Say: Archer has failed in all prior attempts to convince his wife that he really is Archer, given that he is fully aware he has Castor Troy's husky voice and the real Castor has taken Archer's voice. Until Archer reminisces over their first date, at which point she knows it's really him because that's a story they share.
Corresponds with Diegetic Switch, as the song is playing over Adam's headphones while he's being carried to safety during the apartment gunfight. An interesting example, actually, as the movie intends you hear the sound from Adam's perspective, with the music playing much louder than the muffled shouts and gunshots.
Stock Scream: One of the guards gives a Wilhelm Scream during the jailbreak.
Stuff Blowing Up: The boat chase at the end. The rule of thumb here is: If a boat comes into the frame, it will blow up during the next 15 seconds.
Tear Off Your Face: Archer and Castor, for contrived reasons, end up surgically switching faces (and taking each others places). After Castor wakes up and before he receives Archer's face (offscreen), he is shown walking around without a face (just barely; it's limited to a couple of seconds of his face reflected in Dr. Walsh's glasses and a couple very quick direct shots when he's clapping after watching the videotape of the surgery; otherwise, we only see him from behind or his shadow on the side of a wall).
Title Drop: "Face off" is uttered several times in the movie.
Too Dumb to Live: Seriously, Dr. Walsh? Not having anybody watch over Castor Troy while in his coma? Not putting police officers on guard duty? Not even using soft restraints to keep his arms secured to the bed? What's the worst that could happen? You were almost asking for it when Castor came out of that coma, made him you give him the surgery and killed you to keep you from talking.
We Can Rule Together: During their fight at the hangar, Castor tries to goad Archer by stating, "Why don't you come with us? Try terrorism-for-hire. We'll blow some shit up! It's more fun!" Of course, Archer is not swayed.
We Need a Distraction: The original script had Archer getting into his house in a different way: in the script, he uses a trashcan to break the window of a sporting goods store, inciting some teenagers to loot the store. When a police officer arrives, Archer uses the cop's tear gas can on him, then steals his police car. Upon encountering a police roadblock, he gets rid of the roadblock by using his own security code to report a false sighting of himself to the police dispatcher.
Wet Blanket Wife: Eve Archer is one of those "you promised to quit after one last job" types of wives. What makes this example particularly strange is that not only does she seem to show no interest in bringing to justice the Big Bad responsible for killing her son, but Archer doesn't even try to explain to her that there's a nuclear bomb threatening to blow up their city. The movie just sets up Archer as a workaholic cop with a distant marriage and expects it to fly.
With This Ring: Castor taunts Archer at the prison with his own wedding ring. Archer does not take it easily given that it indicates that Castor has killed Tito (and everyone else who know about the plan).
Castor Troy:See anything you LIKE?!
At the end, while in the ambulance, Archer quickly slips his ring off Castor's limp left hand.
Worthy Opponent: Castor seems to have some weird level of respect for Archer that is almost like the rivalry of Sherlock Holmes to Professor Moriarty.
Wouldn't Hurt a Child: One thing that might be in Castor Troy's code of honor is to never intentionally target a young child, as he is ashamed to have killed Archer's son in the carousel sniping instead of Archer, and is unable to hide his remorse when he must go to Michael's grave with Eve.
Would Hurt a Child: On the other hand, he's perfectly willing to aim a pistol at Sasha while his own child is in her arms. Heck, it's possible Castor might have been trying to hit Adam on purpose if he wasn't trying to off Sasha for talking to Archer.
You Taste Delicious: After Jamie inadvertently shoots her own father in his shoulder in the church standoff when provoked by Castor, Castor grabs her, holds a pistol to her head, and in his gleeful way, says "Now let's see what's really in papa's bag: peaches!" and licks the side of her cheek, no doubt to taunt Archer. Given Castor has Archer's real face, this inexplicable sexual assault by the person whom she thinks at the moment is her father only further confuses and traumatizes her. But before Castor can then shoot her, Jamie stabs him in his right knee with the butterfly knife he gave her, in the very method he taught her how to use it in.