Face/Off (1997)

Source: Paramount Pictures: Blu-ray, 2017.

Year: 1997

Director: John Woo

Action Stars

Joan Allen

Nicolas Cage

Nick Cassavetes

Gina Gershon

Alessandro Nivola

Dominique Swain

John Travolta

Genre: Crime Film

Country: United States

Story Duration: 02:13:34

Act Duration:

1st Act: 00:28:41

2nd Act: 00:30:24

3rd Act: 00:37:27

4th Act: 00:33:39

Plot Turns:

1st: Sean Archer agrees to face swap

2nd: Bomb defused

3rd: Pollux Troy killed

ASD Ratio: 41%

AAD Ratios:

1st Act: 45%

2nd Act: 24%

3rd Act: 52%

4th Act: 46%

Action Structure: 2143

Action Scenarios



Escape (Daring Leap)







Speed (Chicken Variant)


Total Action Moments: 28

1. Additive Mexican standoff.
2. Foot pursuit mode.
3. Boat to boat transfer.
4. Boat crash bringing an end to the speed scenario.
Action Structure

Notable Action Sequence: Church Gunfight and Boat Chase

Duration: 00:14:32

Act: 4th

Action Scenarios:









Description: The final act set piece in Face/Off (1997) features John Woo‘s signature action staging, initially developed in the 1980s heroic bloodshed cycle, as noted in the action profile for A Better Tomorrow (1986), and offers amongst the most notable boat chases in film history. Along the way, Woo offers a Mexican standoff and a pursuit sequence that not only reveals changes in mode of pursuit but also a clear illustration how action scenarios can combine horizontally.

Since the film features the swapping of identities of the protagonist and the antagonist through facial transplant surgery, in this summary I will refer to Sean Archer, a FBI agent played by John Travolta, and Castor Troy, a terrorist-for-hire, portrayed by Nicolas Cage, as Sean (as Castor) and Castor (as Sean) respectively.

The sequence commences at the funeral for Victor Lazarro, Castor (as Sean)’s superior who he killed in his office. After funeral attendees have departed, Castor (as Sean) and Sean (as Castor) wait for each other for their final duel. Soon both pull out their weapons and exchange gunfire. With weapons pointed at each other, Castor (as Sean) calls out to one of his henchmen who brings out Eve Archer, Sean’s wife, at gunpoint. She is then shoved into the centre of the truel. Sasha Hassler, Castor’s girlfriend, arrives and tosses an additional weapon to Sean (as Castor) expanding the number of the participants and weapons in the standoff. Another of Castor’s henchmen appears and points his pistol at Sasha, bringing the standoff to a total of five participants [Figure 1]. After a tense moment, Natasha shoves Eve down to protect her from the ensuing gunfire, a rescue action that commences the shootout. In the aftermath, the two henchmen are left dead and Natasha dies in Sean (as Castor)’s arms. Castor (as Sean) then flees from the shootout and Sean (as Castor) runs after him, commencing a chase in foot pursuit mode [Figure 2]. Castor (as Sean) heads to an adjacent harbor and shoots the owner of a speed boat and absconds in it. Sean (as Castor) springs into another speed boat and continues the chase, except now in boat pursuit mode. As they exchange gunfire, the sequence maintains its vertical combination status that mixes the fight scenario with pursuit scenario. But when Sean (as Castor)’s boat catches fire, he leaps onto Castor (as Sean)’s boat effecting a transfer that brings the chase to an end [Figure 3]. As the they continue to fight on top of the speed boat, the sequence horizontally transforms into a fight and speed scenario combination. This combination horizontally transforms one last time as the boat collides into a dry dock sending the combatants into the air [Figure 4]. The collision ends the speed scenario, but the fight between Castor (as Sean) and Sean (as Castor) continues as the sequence ends in pure fight scenario mode, demonstrating how action combinations can be not only additive in nature but horizontally subtractive as well.

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