Face/Off is a 1997 action thriller film by Hong Kong director John Woo, and the second American Heroic Bloodshed film of his. It stars John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, who respectively play an FBI agent and terrorist that are sworn rivals fighting it out to see who can use the most guns at the same time. Oh, and then they switch places to save Los Angeles.
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 the point where the movie completely jumps the rails — but that would be assuming it was ever on rails to begin with.
In order to find where Castor has planted the bomb, Archer volunteers to have Castor's face surgically transplanted onto him so he can get close to Castor's nerdy brother Pollux (Alessandro Nivola). Except, while Archer (now played by 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. With his new face, Castor (now played by 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.
In February 2021, Paramount Pictures finally announced that a sequel was greenlit, with Adam Wingard attached as director and his friend Simon Barrett writing. The film's release date, as well as whether either of the two leads will return, is currently unknown.
Not to be confused with the series Face/Off, a makeup FX reality competition on the SyFy Channel.
- Acting for Two: John Travolta and Nicolas Cage each spend time as Sean Archer and as Castor Troy.
- Actually, I Am Him:
- Victor Lazarro corners Castor about his Cowboy Cop raids:Castor Troy: OK, Victor, I'll, uh, give the taxpayers a break. [puts his hand on Lazarro's shoulder] But I've got something to confess. I don't think you're gonna like it.
[puts his mouth on Lazarro's ear]
Castor Troy: [angrily] I am Castor Troy! [throws Lazarro to the floor and punches him in the chest hard enough to stop his heart completely]
- Archer and Castor, with each other's faces, are in a Mexican standoff at the church.Sean Archer: This is between us. Leave them out of it.
Castor Troy: No. You should have left them out of it. Your son was an accident. I wanted to kill you. But, you took it so personally! Why couldn't you just kill yourself or let it go?
Sean Archer: No father could.
Castor Troy: No brother could either. [Castor's girlfriend Sasha comes in with a pistol in hand]
Sasha Hassler: Neither could a sister. Hey baby. [She tosses a spare gun to Archer, as Archer has Castor's face]
Castor Troy: [annoyed] Sasha, what the fuck are you doing here?
Sasha Hassler: Gee, Archer, I'm crashing the party. You okay, baby?
Sean Archer: Yeah. I'm fine. Thanks.
Castor Troy: Sasha... baby, I'm Castor. He's Archer.
Sasha Hassler: And I'm bored. Put the fucking gun down.
- Victor Lazarro corners Castor about his Cowboy Cop raids:
- Alas, Poor Villain:
- Dietrich. Even Archer-as-Troy looks upset as he's cradling the dying man.Hey, man... we had some good times, didn't we?
- Pollux gets this treatment as well, as Castor solemnly ties his shoelaces one last time before walking out of the now destroyed apartment.
- Dietrich. Even Archer-as-Troy looks upset as he's cradling the dying man.
- Agony of the Feet: One prison guard is shot in the foot from below by Archer during the prison break.
- The Alcatraz: Erehwon Prison (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 like being 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 Navy as an admiral.
- And I'm the Queen of Sheba: When Castor tries to tell Sasha who's who, she responds, "And I am bored."
- Arch-Enemy: Castor Troy to Sean Archer.
- 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), a switchblade, what appears to be a blue glass vial, and...4 pieces of Bazooka Joe bubble gum and a pack of Chiclets.
- Artistic License – Medicine: Obviously, full face transplant surgery is not yet this easy. They at least say that it's a newfound, cutting-edge technique (so don't pretend this isn't fiction), plus some alterations to make their bodies alike in other ways. However, Archer and Troy still have different builds which would be a dead giveaway for people who know them well, since those can't be altered (they aren't even with the fictional surgical wizardry).
- Ask a Stupid Question...: Dr. Walsh is dragged before a faceless Castor Troy and has the gall to ask "What do you want?"Castor Troy:...take one goddamn guess.
- A-Team Firing: Every. Single. Named. Character.
- Ax-Crazy: Castor Troy. Pollux is definitely insane as well, but much cooler and calmer.
- Badass Bookworm: Pollux Troy. He overpowers an FBI agent armed with a gun, when all he has is a briefcase, and when the cops corner them goes gun blazing at them.
- Bad Boss: While disguised as Archer, Castor has no problems leading a police raid on the compound housing his gang, which results in most of them dying. He also shoots one of the police involved in the raid when the officer asks why he's mourning the death of Pollux.
- Bad Habits: Castor is introduced in the present day planting 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 prisoner to prove to Pollux that he is Castor, he comes dangerously 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.
- Even if its for selfish reasons, Castor genuinely enjoys taking over Archer’s job and all the perks that comes with it. He also Took a Level in Kindness, genuinely acting as a caring father to Archer's teenage daughter and going out of his way to protect her from her abusive boyfriend. He even apologizes to Archer for the Accidental Murder of his son; however, he was still undoubtedly a horrific villain and likely would've killed the rest of Archer's family if it became necessary to maintain his cover.
- Bed Trick: After Castor Troy has Sean Archer's face surgically grafted onto his head, he taunts Sean (who has Castor's face grafted on his) about how among other things, he'll have his way with Sean's wife. Later, he romances and seduces her.
- Big "NO!": Sean Archer yells this when realizing he's located in the middle of the ocean, when escaping to the roof of what he thought was a building during his escape from Erehwon.
- 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).
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Castor, after donning Sean's face as a form of retribution to the latter via trying to ruin his reputation as an FBI agent.
- Bloodstained Glass Windows: You just knew that Woo would fit a church shootout into this movie somewhere.
- Bluff the Impostor: Pollux quizzes Archer-as-Castor on what medication he takes, but Archer is so obsessed with Castor that he is able to answer correctly.
- Book Ends:
- Archer's first encounter with Castor Troy in the movie has Castor singing, "Ready for the big ride, baby!" before he attempts to stab Archer and gets kicked into the jet. In their final encounter, as he's dying on the pier after getting speared, he repeats this song.
- Pollux Troy's first scene sees Castor reach down to tie his shoelaces. After Pollux dies, Castor ties his shoelaces for one last time.
- 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 scared one of them so intensely that he pissed his pants.
- Broken Bird: Jamie's troubled behavior is implied to be as a result of the grief from the loss of her brother.
- Brother–Sister Incest: That seemed like a very un-sisterly kiss Dietrich and Sasha gave each other before he died.
- 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 wear 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.
- Also Castor, wearing Sean Archer's face, tries to tell his ex-girlfriend, Sasha, of his true identity in the Mexican standoff, only for her to respond, "And I am bored." Judging by him sighing after her response, it seems he could care less if she doesn't believe him.
- 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.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- 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 uses the story of their first date to fully convince her.
- The voice chips that give Archer and Castor the other's voice when they acquire those respective faces end up proving a problem for Archer when he realizes he doesn't sound like himself.
- After the attempted rape scene, Castor gives Jamie a butterfly knife and teaches her how to stab someone in the leg with it. In the climax, when he uses her as a human shield against Archer in the church standoff and prepares to execute her, she takes out the knife he gave her and stabs him the way he taught her!
- 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.
- This is also an alternate name for a Glasgow Grin (also called a Chelsea Grin or a Glasgow Smile) - facial scars (caused by knife wounds) that look like a smile. Actor Tommy Flanagan, who plays one of Castor's Co-Dragons, Leo (when Castor is impersonating Archer), has a Glasgow Smile in real life.
- 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.
- His accidental kill of Archer's son is the only time Troy doesn't do this, looking rather horrified at what his bungled shot had done but it's not clear if this is because he's upset because he accidentally killed a child or just because he failed to kill Archer and correctly assumes Archer will now hound him till the day he dies.
- 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 sub-machine guns, managing to more handedly gun down the unarmed women trying to escape than any actual combatents. 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.
- Cool Shades:
- 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.
- Cop Killer:
- Castor kills the undercover FBI agent that Archer planted on the plane posing as a flight attendant, then kills several more in the resulting hangar shootout.
- Castor's associates, including Dietrich and Sasha, do the same in the raid on Dietrich's penthouse. In fairness though it's arguably self-defense as the FBI came in firing without even an attempt to arrest them.
- Archer as well, since he appears to kill a couple guards while escaping.
- Counting Bullets: The hangar standoff has this: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, especially Castor Troy. He gets better with time.
- 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.)
- Deadly Euphemism: "And stay away from downtown on the 18th. It's gonna be a little, uh, [grins] smoggy."
- Death by Disfigurement: Zigzagged. Agent Loomis has his ear blown off in the opening shootout and is killed later in the movie, but his ear had been completely healed and restructured.
- Death by Secret Identity:
- Invoked by Castor, 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.
- Death of a Child: Castor's first onscreen kill is Sean's young son, Michael, with a bullet meant for Michael's father in an Accidental Murder moment.
- 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.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight:
- 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.
- Did They or Didn't They?: It's implied that Eve Archer probably had sex with Castor while he was impersonating Sean, but this is never explicitly stated. The two of them definitely did sleep in the same bed together, but it's never stated or shown if anything more intimate happened. Clues include the fact that Castor taunted Sean that this was his goal, Eve's glowing contentment with their "renewed" relationship and the traumatic way she and Sean react when she reminds him that she and Castor have been "living as husband and wife" for a week. These give the impression this was the case, but nothing is certain.
- Dirty Cop: Castor abuses Archer's job with impunity, getting Pollux released from prison by having him "confess" the location of their big bomb so that he can "locate" it and play hero, while using Archer's men as assassins to get rid of his associates, and stealthily take Archer's place in his family.
- Disappeared Dad: Adam is Castor's son by his girlfriend Sasha. Until the exchange Sasha has with Archer (who at that point is impersonating Castor), she hadn't told him or anyone else who his father was, so Castor wasn't involved since he didn't know (Sasha was afraid his rivals might target Adam if they knew).
- 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 wing flaps 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."
- Disturbed Doves: It wouldn't be a John Woo film otherwise.
- Double-Meaning Title: There's a face-off in the sense of a showdown, and the surgery that takes each character's face... off.
- Ear Ache: Agent Loomis's left ear is sheared off by a bullet during the hangar shootout. When Archer visits the Walsh Institute later on, Dr. Walsh demonstrates the Institute's capabilities by showing the replacement organic ear they're building for Loomis.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: At the end of the film, Archer kills off Castor, reunites with his family, adopts Adam, and gets his face back.
- 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 Large Ham 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.
- Castor's gang in general seem a pretty close-knit band of friends, willing to stick up for one another when things get hairy (as evidenced by the penthouse raid). Pity Castor doesn't really care about any of them outside of Pollux.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Zig-zagged with Castor Troy, an indiscriminately murderous scumbag. He beats up Jamie's boyfriend 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 Castor is her father. In the opening Castor also shows shock when he accidentally shoots Archer's son, but when he visits the boy's grave with Eve he looks more bored than remorseful. The only definite redeeming trait he ends up with is his love for his brother Pollux.
- Every Car 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 Hammy: Character wise, Castor Troy is the hammy one. Archer only hams it up when he's pretending to be Troy.
- Evil is Petty: At the end of the final battle, Castor realizes he's screwed, since Archer has him pinned to a wall with a speargun aimed at his gut. 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.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Sasha's dying words.
- 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.
- Females Are More Innocent: Sasha has proven herself to be much more sympathetic than Castor is, from taking care of their child Adam to sacrificing herself in order to save both Eve and Sean Archer.
- Fiery Cover-Up: After forcing the doctors at the Walsh Institute to give him Archer's face, Castor has the institute burned down to destroy all the evidence and kill everyone who is aware that Archer is currently impersonating Castor. He then goes to the prison to rub this in Archer's face.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!
- When Castor meets Pollux at the airfield, he says, "Buddy, if I didn’t love you so damn much I'd have to kill you, bro." Archer kills Pollux whilst sporting Castor's face.
- Tito declares to Archer right before the surgery, "I've changed my mind; this is a suicide mission." Tragically, it does end up being fatal for him and almost fatal for Archer.
- Four Is Death: There are four characters (Castor Troy, his brother Pollux, and henchmen Leo and Lars) that are always playing an antagonistic role throughout the film. Also, Pollux, Lars, and Leo are the only other people that know Castor is impersonating Archer after Lars and Leo burn down the Walsh Institute and the Special Ops team in charge of the operation.
- "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.
- Game of Chicken: Sean Archer attempts to do this with the airplane Castor Troy is on, much to Tito's chagrin. At least the former is able to get out of the way before the airplane hits them both.Tito: Goddamn it! Don't play chicken with the goddamn jet!
- 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 Versus 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.
- Groin Attack:
- Archer-as-Castor gives a couple in the prison breakout.
- Jamie's boyfriend gets the receiving end of this when Castor beats him up.
- 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.
- Guns Akimbo: Archer and Castor on multiple occasions. Again, it's John Woo.
- Hammy Villain, Serious Hero: Castor Troy is a Large Ham terrorist and arms dealer, while Sean Archer is an emotionally withdrawn FBI agent.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: For most of the film, Castor Troy is John Travolta pretending to be Nicolas Cage pretending to be Travolta, while Sean Archer is Nicolas Cage pretending to be John Travolta pretending to be Cage. It's just as glorious as it sounds.
- Harpoon Gun: What is used to defeat Castor Troy for good.
- Heel–Face Turn: Zig-zagged with Sasha, who helps Archer and even saves both his life and his wife's life; but thinks she's helping Troy and fighting against Archer. Essentially, she never really switched sides, she just didn't understand who was who.
- Heroic Bloodshed: The best-known and most-quoted example of this trope in western cinema.
- Heroic BSoD: Archer combines this with a monumental Oh, Crap! at the prison when he is told he has a visitor. He goes to the visitor's room. The door opens, and in walks Castor Troy wearing Archer's old face, casually revealing that he's killed the surgeon who did the surgeries and then burned down the building to destroy all evidence of the switch.
- Hero Insurance: Archer commits a number of felonies while undercover as Castor. This includes though isn't limited to killing a couple guards and jailbreak. Here it's justified though as the only people to learn he's been disguised as Castor were his FBI colleagues, who wouldn't tell, so all this can be blamed on Castor (and he had little choice to stop Castor).
- Heroic Sacrifice: Sasha saves both Eve and Sean Archer during the church shootout, albeit with the cost of her own life via a gunshot wound.
- Hired to Hunt Yourself: A twist variant: upon taking Archer's face, Castor is hunting "himself" (actually Archer).
- Hollywood Autism: Pollux Troy is said to have a high IQ and is very skilled at building things, but he has No Social Skills and struggles with any task that doesn't involve creating weapons of mass destruction.
- Hollywood Tactics: The police tactics during the raid on Dietrich's place are not something normal cops would do. It's unlikely that even trained FBI or municipal cops would ever fire first on suspects without any visible threat, and the raid depicts them as more of trigger happy assassins than cops. Yes, they're taking orders from Castor Troy, who wouldn't be versed at all in police tactics, but the highly trained cops should have better discipline. Somewhat lampshaded in the next scene when Lazarro confronts Castor and says there are concerns about the constitutionality of his "Gestapo tactics".
- Hope Spot: Archer smirks when the guard announces that he has a visitor in Erehwon after having extracted the location of the bomb from Pollux. Then the visitor turns out to be Castor, wearing his face, here to gloat about how he's killed everyone who knows about Archer's surgery.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Castor's butterfly knife technique is used against him by Archer's daughter (since Castor told her to use it against sexually harrassing dudes, to which he tried to commit that rather hypocritically just to spite Archer more).
- Husky Russkie: Ivan Dubov.
- Hypocritical Humor: "You watch your fuckin' mouth!" is one of Castor's most common catchphrases.
- I'll Kill You!: Although he doesn't say it, Archer's scream at Castor, "DIE!" while strangling him indicates that's what he'll do to him if the latter tries to ruin his life using his face.
- 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 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 says, "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.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: This is how Castor Troy dies at the end of the movie, courtesy of a spear gun.
- Impersonating an Officer: Plastic surgery allows Castor to spend much of his time impersonating Archer.
- Imposter Forgot One Detail: Because of how different Archer's FBI job is from Castor's criminal lifestyle, both Archer and Castor at several points come narrowly close to slipping their identities away.
- Castor comes dangerously close to giving himself away as an impostor on at least three occasions:
Jamie Archer: Clarissa left those here.
- 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.
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 the brother of his sworn enemy. 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, and puts a gun to his head. Then Loomis sees him and says, "Sir why are you so upset? It's just Pollux Troy." Castor shoots Loomis in the face.
- Ultimately, Castor's unorthodox tactics get Lazarro even more suspicious of him. Enough that Castor is forced to kill him when he gets too close to the son.
- 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 he put away, and almost forgets he's not supposed to answer to the name of Sean Archer.
- 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, his body rejects it.
- When Archer breaks back into his house to reach out to his wife, she (not knowing about the switch) understandably freaks out as she thinks she's face to face with the man who killed their son.
- Castor comes dangerously close to giving himself away as an impostor on at least three occasions:
- Indy Ploy: Archer staging a jailbreak, while having no clear plan and improvising on the spot to new developments.
- Innocently Insensitive: An interesting example of someone being insensitive to the villain. After the shootout at Dietrich's, Agent Loomis asks Castor why he's so upset about the death of the terrorist Pollux Troy, not realizing that (due to the plastic surgery) he's talking to Pollux's brother.
- Intoxication Ensues: You can tell that Archer's obviously not used to the drugs he has to take to maintain his impersonation of Castor...Sean Archer: I want to take his face...off!
Dietrich: [copying the gesture] The face.....off. [Archer collapses on a bed] No more drugs for that man.
- Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Upon learning of Castor and Pollux chartering a plane, Archer has an undercover female agent, Winters, put on the plane posing as a flight attendant. Which doesn't end well for Winters.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- While Archer is a little overboard criticizing the people for celebrating his original defeat of Castor Troy, he is right to point out that 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.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: After the death of his son, Archer becomes overly-obsessed with finding Castor Troy and consequently becomes incredibly hot-headed and demanding towards his fellow FBI agents. However, he does still value their lives in his own abrasive way, as seen when he calls out the agents toasting to Castor Troy's defeat by pointing out how the agents who died during the capture deserve the toast more than he does. The "jerk" part gradually fades after he spends some time in Castor's shoes and realizes just how much he's alienated himself from those around him with his behavior.
- 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.
- Kick the Dog: After getting Archer's face on, Troy as visits Archer (who has Troy's face) just to rub in the fact that he burned down the Walsh Institute to destroy all the evidence and kill everyone who is aware that Archer is currently impersonating Castor and gloats that Archer will be stuck in prison for the rest of his life.
- Kill the Parent, Raise the Child: After Sean Archer kills Castor Troy, he adopts Troy's son, who is approximately the same age as Archer's son was when Troy killed him.
- Knight in Sour Armor: When his fellow agents congratulate Archer after he catches Troy, Archer takes a minute to point out several other agents were killed in the process.
- Large Ham: Nicolas Cage and John Travolta spend the movie trying to top each other as both Castor and Archer. Both succeed.
- Leitmotif: Archer's whole family has one.
- Letting the Air out of the Band: When the plane starts careening towards the hangar, Castor shuts down the throttles and the music slows down until the aircraft crashes through the windows.
- Longer-Than-Life Sentence: It's hard to tell whether or not it's mocking hyperbole, but when Castor arrives to Erewhon Prison wearing Archer's face and confronts him, he's way too proud that Archer will be taking the fall for Castor's crimes and spending the next hundred years locked up.
- Magic Plastic Surgery: One of the crowning examples. They do at least have the decency to point out it's a very specialized and advanced technique. Cutting edge, even.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Castor strikes Lazarro in the chest hard enough to stun him, then restricts his throat while he's on the ground until he suffocates and claims it was cardiac arrest later.
- Married to the Job: Archer, who has completely destroyed his family life and probably only has one man he can call friend (and he gets killed early in the movie) within the Bureau because of his obsession to arrest Castor Troy.
- Meaningful Name: Pollux and Castor Troy are named for the Gemini twins in Classical Mythology, the brothers of Helen of Troy. 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.
- Mêlée à Trois: The climactic Mexican Standoff is split into six sides.
- 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!"
- Mole in Charge: After Castor kills Lazarro, Castor becomes the new FBI Director.
- Mood Whiplash: The movie's tones are all over the place.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- After the standoff with both Archer and Castor, and the ensuing hostage situation, Jamie runs to her mother, regretting having accidentally shot her father in the confusion of the moment.
- Castor also appears to have this expression after he realizes he's shot Michael, but his look of boredom when Eve visits Michael's grave with him suggests otherwise.
- My Sister Is Off-Limits: Immediately upon entry into Erewhon Prison, Archer gets beaten up by 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.
- Noodle Incident: Why Dubov is in prison is never revealed (although he was in the same circles as the Troy brothers).
- Not-So-Badass Longcoat: When Castor arrives at the airport to meet Pollux at the beginning of the film, the 3/4 length suit coat he wears is close to, but not quite, a Badass Longcoat. Instead of being an important part of his wardrobe, he takes it off and switches it out for a standard suit coat. Although the coat is used for Dramatic Wind during its brief time on screen, it is not used with regard to the equally important element of Hammerspace.
- 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.
- Oh, Crap!:
- 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, completely paralyzed as Castor smirks, then cockily strides towards Archer, and breaks into a grin:Castor Troy: Whoooo-wheeee, you're good lookin'! Ya hot! [He advances on Archer] It's like looking in a mirror, only not. [beat]
Sean Archer: Troy?
Castor Troy: Now that is between us, OK?
Sean Archer: But you were—were, uh...
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: [horrified] Tito...
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! 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 Troy: One of yours, Sean?!
[beat. Castor shoots her in the back]
Sean Archer: Shit!
- 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, completely paralyzed as Castor smirks, then cockily strides towards Archer, and breaks into a grin:
- One-Hit Polykill: The movie opens with Castor attempting to snipe Archer while he's on a carousel with his son. The bullet ends up going through Archer non-fatally and hits Michael in the head, killing him.
- Outrun the Fireball: Archer does this near the end of the apartment battle when Loomis fires several grenades at him.
- 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.
- Pet the Dog:
- 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 things like kill cops and plant big bombs is stopping this kind of thing.
- Police Brutality:
- The Erewhon prison guards use far more force than is necessary, including electroshock treatment on prisoners as punishment, which the head guard at least clearly enjoys.
- Castor, disguised as Archer, leads FBI agents in opening fire on Dietrich's penthouse with no attempt to announce themselves or arrest them. Legally, this is attempted murder, and Director Lazarro is outraged by this afterward, calling it "Gestapo tactics".
- Really, even taking into account that it's Troy-as-Archer leading them, the agents raiding the penthouse appear to give zero fucks about limiting any potential collateral damage and just shoot the place silly. At least two unarmed hangers-on die in the crossfire.
- 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).
- Redemption Equals Death: Sasha (in a roundabout manner; she died trying to save Archer from Castor, but she thought she was doing the opposite, although her last words were still to speak out in favor of her son having a different life).
- Red Shirt Army: The police during the shootout at the airport - both cops and FBI. It's almost as if Archer is the only one capable of taking on Castor Troy without receiving a bullet trying to. Same for the shootout at Dietrich's place.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Castor and Pollux.
- Relative Button: As if Castor killing Archer's son during a botched hit wasn't bad enough, he then has to throw in a rape threat towards Archer's daughter Jamie during his standoff with Castor. Archer reacts as pissed off as you'd expect.
- Replacement Goldfish: Archer sees a lot of his son Michael in Castor's son Adam.
- Reusable Lighter Toss: Castor Troy burns all the evidence of anyone that knew about the "out of body experience" mission that Sean Archer is currently involved in by dousing everything (and everyone) in gas and tossing his gold Zippo on them.
- Same Language Dub: Justified. After the plastic surgery is over, Archer has Castor's face but still has his native 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, then has Archer listen to some audiotapes of Castor to train his voice.
- 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] Take one goddamn guess.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Castor, when he awakens from his coma and finds that his face has been removed.
- During their stand-off, Castor tries to shoot Archer, only to realise that his gun is empty. A similar scene happened in Woo's Hard Boiled.
- The boat chase climax was originally planned for Woo's Hard Target.
- Woo's The Killer (1989) also had a climactic shoot-out in a church, complete with the trademark doves.
- Sexless Marriage: Eve's diary relates that she and Archer haven't had sex in months when the film begins, as he's always busy at work, each "date night" fizzling due to this. Castor, reading this, calls Archer a loser.
- 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: Archer spends most of his time wearing three piece suits, and subsequently so does Castor when he assumes Archer's identity. Castor himself also sports some nice clothes.
- 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 at Sasha for harboring Archer, though Dietrich intercepts the bullet.
- The scene of a plane crashing head-on through a glass window looks familiar.
- At one point during the prison escape, Archer hides behind boxes with the word "Ingen" on them. "Ingen" also means "no one" in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.
- The magnetic clamp boots that the prisoners wear look like the boots worn by the Goombas in Super Mario Bros. (1993).
- Archer defeats Castor Troy by impaling him with a spear gun.
- 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.
- Slasher Smile:
- 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 before executing her. 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 jumps from the helipad of the oil rig into the sea, to no ill effect. In bare feet, no less.
- Something Only They Would Say: Archer has failed in all prior attempts to convince his wife that Castor has taken his face. Until Archer reminisces over their first date, at which point she knows it's really him because that's a story they share and Castor couldn't possibly know.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: "Somewhere over the Rainbow" plays over the gunfight in Dietrich's place. Bonus points: It's the version sung by Olivia Newton-John, who starred opposite Travolta once upon a time. It 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 Howie 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.
- Survivor's Guilt: In one seen with his wife, Archer implicitly mentions how he sometimes wishes he died in Castor's attempt on his life instead of his son.
- Taking the Bullet: Sasha does this for Eve during the final battle in the church.
- Tear Off Your Face: Archer and Castor, for contrived reasons, end up surgically switching faces (and taking each other's places). After Castor wakes up and before he receives Archer's face (off-screen), 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).
- Terrorists Without a Cause: Castor Troy refers to himself as a "freelance terrorist", while Pollux later mentions the pair were hired by some "militia nuts" to plant a bomb (which it's revealed was for assassinating three US Supreme Court Justices), but his motivation clearly boils down to For the Evulz. Money isn't his main objective. In the novelization he's a former CIA agent using his skills for this purpose.
- Third-Person Person: Archer-as-Castor, freshly arrived in the prison, recognizes another inmate he put away on a different case and has to refer to himself in the third person to narrowly avoid giving away his true identity.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: FLY, BITCH!
- Title Drop: "Face off" is uttered several times in the movie.
- To Absent Friends: After capturing Castor Troy, Archer returns to his office at the FBI and brusquely quells the round of applause that greets him. His secretary hands him a bottle of champagne from the Director's office, and he tells her to send it back. Then he changes his mind, grabs the bottle and suggests they all raise a toast to the agents who died during the takedown, listing them by name. The celebratory mood of the room disappears instantly.
- Too Dumb to Live: Dr. Walsh not having anybody to watch over Castor Troy while in his coma. Or putting heavily armed guards around Castor's bed. Or even using soft restraints to keep his arms secured to the bed. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?. It's kinda karmic that he's the first person Castor has killed, along with Archer's handler and best friend, upon getting Archer's old face grafted onto Castor, who then burns down the facility to cover his tracks.
- Trapped Undercover: Archer for most of the film - stuck with Castor Troy's face, everyone who knew about his mission dead, and the real Castor Troy having assumed his identity!
- Uncertain Doom:
- The thug in the white pants and the one in the red jacket aren't explicitly killed in the penthouse shootout, although the man in red is last seen either falling or jumping, and a figure with white pants and similar boots is seen sprawled across a table, although without clear injuries, in the background of one scene (although his face isn't in focus).
- Deitrich's crony Aldo and escort Livia are both shot in the penthouse shootout, but Livia is still conscious and clutching her stomach after being shot and Aldo remains standing as the camera cuts away, leaving their fates slightly ambiguous.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The scene where Castor Troy is dressed as a priest and presumably trying to avoid being noticed, features him headbanging into the church, stopping to hit on one of the many chorus girls, grabbing her ass while she's singing, and basically orgasming. Absolutely no one else present makes note of this.
- Verbal Backspace: Archer nearly blows his cover on his first day in prison when he recognizes another inmate he arrested on an unrelated case.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.
- Villain of Another Story: Burke Hicks could have been the Big Bad of a slightly different movie, as he once stalked the U.N. Secretary General before Archer arrested him, is familiar with international terrorist Castor Troy, and is played by Thomas Jane. However, he spends the entire movie locked up in a shady Black Site that he has no inclination to risk trying to escape from, and is friendly with the undercover Archer due to never suspecting his real identity.
- Villain with Good Publicity: As Sean Archer, Castor Troy is definitely this, as he not only disarms Sinclare, but after he kills Lazarro, he is immediately promoted to FBI Director, making him virtually untouchable.
- Villainous Valor: In the penthouse raid scene there's plenty of this. Dietrich stands in plain sight firing his shotgun at invading FBI agents. A thug in a red jacket is seen trying to get the two hanger-ons to safety. One or two thugs briefly shields Archer, Sasha and Adam. And one of the gangsters (whose easy to keep track of from his white pants) goes absolutely ham with Guns Akimbo on the agents dropping through the skylight.
- 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.
- We Will Not Use Stage Makeup In The Future: The transplant procedure.
- 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 helping Archer bring Castor Troy to justice, but Archer doesn't even try to explain to her that there's a chemical bomb threatening to be set off in their city (though one figures that Archer probably didn't want to scare her... although he could have just not explicitly said what Castor was up to beyond a vague "Castor Troy set something up and it'll still happen whether or not he's in a coma" kind of explanation, or told her what he was really doing and a code phrase only he knows that would allow her to tell if he'd been replaced). In the end, the movie just sets up Archer as a workaholic cop with a distant marriage and expects it to fly. So when Castor takes over Archer's identity, he is quick to exploit the distanced marriage.Castor Troy: [reading Eve's journal] "Date night. Fizzled again. We haven't made love in two months." What a loser...
- Subverted with Sasha. Castor views her as a wet-blanket type, but she turns out to be more than capable with a gun during the shootout with Castor's SWAT teams.
- 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 helping Archer bring Castor Troy to justice, but Archer doesn't even try to explain to her that there's a chemical bomb threatening to be set off in their city (though one figures that Archer probably didn't want to scare her... although he could have just not explicitly said what Castor was up to beyond a vague "Castor Troy set something up and it'll still happen whether or not he's in a coma" kind of explanation, or told her what he was really doing and a code phrase only he knows that would allow her to tell if he'd been replaced). In the end, the movie just sets up Archer as a workaholic cop with a distant marriage and expects it to fly. So when Castor takes over Archer's identity, he is quick to exploit the distanced marriage.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Dr. Walsh's surgical staff aren't killed along with him, Tito and Miller but are never considered by either Archer or Castor as being able to expose the truth.
- During the attack on Castor's gangs hideout, Cindee, one of Dietrich's hanger-ons, is last seen fleeing up some stairs about midway through the shootout then disappears (although since everyone else who died gets their deaths shown whether Archer is near them or not, she presumably survived).
- What Measure Is a Mook?: Frequent later on, when Archer becomes very friendly with Dietrich and his friends. Bonus points when it turns out Castor's biological son Adam is being raised by said "bad guys", as well as Castor having them all killed in a staged FBI bust so that he can get back at Archer.
- With This Ring:
- Castor taunts Archer at the prison with his own wedding ring. Archer had trusted the ring to Tito prior to the mission for safekeeping, so seeing it on Castor's hand is all the proof he needs to know that Tito is dead by Castor's hand (as is 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.
- Castor taunts Archer at the prison with his own wedding ring. Archer had trusted the ring to Tito prior to the mission for safekeeping, so seeing it on Castor's hand is all the proof he needs to know that Tito is dead by Castor's hand (as is everyone else who know about the plan).
- Worthy Opponent: Castor seems to have some weird level of respect for Archer.
- Would Hurt a Child: Though Castor Troy didn't intend to kill Archer's son in the carousel sniping instead of Archer, he's not really remorseful either, only looking bored when he attends Michael's grave with Eve. Plus, he is perfectly willing to aim a pistol at Sasha while his own child is in her arms (although there is no evidence that Castor knew Adam was his son). 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. He'd also planted a chemical WMD to level Los Angeles, which certainly would have killed lots of children.
- This trope also seems to apply to most of the FBI agents, who freely empty round after round in the direction of Castor's son.
- Would You Like to Know How They Died?: Upon getting Archer's face, Castor decides to visit Archer in prison and reveal just what he did to everyone who knows about the switcheroo. By the time he's boasting of his plans to take over Archer's career, Archer is holding back the urge to vomit.
- 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, just like he taught her.