Every once in a while, viewers can tell if actors have accepted a role just for the paycheck—or have turned up on the set every day with an almost infantile glee. This applies in two respects to John Woo's (76) wonderfully over-stylized ballerina ballet 'In the Body of the Enemy', which conquered the German screens on September 25, 1997, exactly 25 years ago.
Nicolas Cage (58) as John Travolta (68), John Travolta as Nicolas Cage. In addition, golden guns, white doves, the whole thing primarily in slow motion and a plot in which plastic surgeons slap their surgical gloves together over their heads. All in all, the result was action cinema in a form that has not been celebrated in this form for a long time apart from comic book adaptations: on the one hand completely over the top, but with a deep underlying seriousness. On the other hand with an outrageous but highly innovative story. A film with two faces, both of which can be seen in their own way.The good and the bad switch sides
FBI agent Sean Archer (Travolta) seeks revenge. His little son died six years ago when he was assassinated by the terrorist Castor Troy (Cage). When the day of revenge finally came, the joy was short-lived: Troy ended up in a coma during the explosive arrest - but only he and his brother Pollux (Alessandro Nivola, 50) know where a bomb is hidden in the middle of Los Angeles. To elicit Pollux's location, Archer does what any good FBI agent would do: in a top-secret operation, he has his face removed, replaced with Castor Troy's, and locked up with Pollux in a maximum-security prison!
Without a face, but with all the more anger in his stomach, the real Troy wakes up a short time later in the hospital. Lacking alternatives, he forces the doctors to stitch Archer's face onto his body before killing everyone who was in on the identity swap. For all outsiders, including the respective families, Castor Troy has become FBI great Sean Archer - and the criminal Castor Troy...Don't think, have fun
The plot of 'In the Body of the Enemy', which is abundantly clear from the synopsis alone, is glorious nonsense. Where other films for a body swap usually don't know how to help themselves other than resorting to magic, Woo dares to find a 'scientific' solution - which knows how to studiously ignore such unimportant things as different blood groups or different physique.
Together with the scenes in the maximum security prison, in which the inmates are kept in check with magnetic shoes, 'In the Body of the Enemy' is an action orgy and a sci-fi film. The quiet moments in which the fake Archer settles like a cuckoo in his nemesis' home are like a family drama.
A delicious task arises for the two main actors. Basically, they don't play their respective roles for long stretches of the film, but each other's actors. Travolta goes under the 'overacter' for this and can get upset about his own 'ridiculous chin'. Ironically, HB male Cage meanwhile has to embody the stoic bore.
The premise may be badly constructed, but the director and the main actors get the most out of it. In the spirit of his Hong Kong action films, above all the prime example 'Hard Boiled' with Chow Yun-fat (67), the action is of course the focus of Woo's work. It's still impressive 25 years later. Thanks to practical effects, shooting slow motion and white doves – a stylistic three-pack, which he also remained loyal to in “Mission: Impossible 2” three years later.
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