Face/Off is a 2017 science fiction action film directed by James Wan, and starring Michael Fassbender and Edward Norton. Fassbender plays a Reno police officer and Norton plays a serial rapist and murderer, who are sworn enemies who swap faces with each other. The film is a remake of the 1997 film of the same name. The film will be released on July 21, 2017 by Paramount Pictures and MGM.
Reno police officer Carl Murphy (Michael Fassbender) arrives home from the store, but goes back when he realizes he forgot to buy milk. On his way back to the store, he bumps into a man walking down the street. When Carl returns home again from the store, he finds the door busted down and his wife, Rachel (Zooey Deschanel), being raped by murderer and serial rapist Joey Grimes (Edward Norton). Joey escapes, but not before shooting Carl in the ribs.
Eight years later, a vindictive Carl finds Joey and his younger brother, Peter (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), trying to leave the country at Reno International Airport. During a fight, Joey taunts Carl with information of a missing woman (Alexandra Daddario) who will die in six days. Unfortunately, before Carl can get more information, Joey is knocked into a coma.
Carl interrogates Peter about the location of the woman, but Peter does not tell anything. Carl’s friend and partner, Ronald Ford (Jeremy Renner), tells Carl about a face transplant surgery, which Carl reluctantly and secretly agrees to do. With the help of Dr. Jerome Graves (Ike Barinholtz), Carl takes on the face and appearance of Joey Grimes. Carl (now played by Norton) is taken to the same prison as Peter, who slowly believes that Carl is really Joey, and inadvertently tells Carl the location of the missing woman. Meanwhile, Joey has woken up from his coma and discovers that his face has been removed. He calls his henchman and has them kidnap Dr. Graves, who is forced to put Carl’s face on Joey.
Joey (now played by Fassbender) visits a horrified Carl in prison and gloats about how the lab has been burned down, with Dr. Graves and Ronald inside, so that there is no proof of the face switch and Joey can take over Carl’s life. Carl is left to suffer in prison, while Joey convinces Peter to reveal the missing woman’s location, so he can be released from prison. After he finds the missing woman, Joey-as-Carl earns the respect of Carl’s fellow police officers. Joey then gets close to Carl’s family that was neglected by Carl, due to his vindictiveness. He prepares a nice dinner for him and Rachel, and saves Carl’s daughter, Olivia (Sophie Turner), from a mugger.
A riot erupts at the prison, which allows Carl to escape and retreat to one of Joey’s hideouts, where he meets a stripper named Haley (Kirsten Dunst). That night, while Carl and Haley have sex in a bathtub, a guilt-ridden Carl inadvertently yells out Rachel’s name. Later in bed, Carl tells Haley that Rachel is a woman he loves very much, but was taken from him by someone. Haley then tells Carl that nobody has ever loved her, which is why she believes her life is bad. Carl tells Haley that if she gets help, it might not be too late to turn her life around. Meanwhile, Joey has learned of Carl’s escape and leads a raid on his hideout. The raid results in a shootout, in which many cops and members of Joey’s gang, including Peter, are killed. However, Carl and Haley escape.
Grief-stricken over the loss of his brother, Joey kills Sheriff Aaron Patton (Jeff Goldblum), and sets it up to look like suicide. Carl gets Haley to safety, and returns home to Rachel, where he convinces her to take DNA samples from him and various objects. When Rachel discovers Carl’s identity, she tells her husband that Joey will be at Patton’s funeral. However, Joey anticipated that Carl would show up to the funeral and takes Rachel hostage. A gunfight ensues between the two, which allows Rachel to escape from Joey’s arms.
The gunfight continues outside, where Olivia is too taken hostage by Joey, who threatens to rape her as well. Olivia saves herself by disarming Joey and shooting him in the leg (which he ironically taught her how to do). Haley then arrives and holds Carl and Joey at gunpoint. The two try to convince her of each other’s identities, but Haley ends up shooting Joey in the shoulder, which allows Carl to grab a gun and shoot Joey in the groin. Joey finally dies when Carl shoots him in the chest, causing him to fall off a cliff and into the river.
Haley reveals to Carl that she knew he wasn’t really Joey the whole time. When Carl questions why she let him live, Haley says that Carl was the only person who ever truly cared about her, and knew that wasn’t what Joey would’ve done. She also overheard something about a face transplant while she was at the police station earlier. The police then arrive, and Haley is arrested. However, before she is taken away, she thanks Carl for being so kind to her, and vows to turn her life around once she is out of jail.
The other officers on the scene address Carl by his real name, having been convinced of his identity thanks to Rachel and a folder filled with evidence left by Ronald. The police recover Joey's body from the river, while Carl is taken to a nearby hospital, where the face transplant surgery is undone.
Four months later, Carl (back to Fassbender) and his family live a much happier life, with Rachel fully avenged and Carl’s vendetta finally gone. Haley is also living a better life and thanks Carl for helping her turn her life around. The film ends with Carl and Rachel helping Olivia prepare for her graduation.
Michael Fassbender – Carl Murphy/Joey Grimes
Edward Norton – Joey Grimes/Carl Murphy
Zooey Deschanel – Rachel Murphy
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Peter Grimes
Kirsten Dunst – Haley Price
Sophie Turner – Olivia Murphy
Jeff Goldblum - Aaron Patton
Ike Barinholtz - Dr. Jerome Graves
Alexandra Daddario - Victoria Knox
Jeremy Renner - Ronald Ford
- Much like John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, Michael Fassbender and Edward Norton spent a lot of time together, so they could learn to act like each other.
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt is good friends with Zooey Deschanel, and convinced her to take the role of Rachel Murphy.
- Michael Fassbender and Sophie Turner previously appeared together in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).
- Other actors besides Michael Fassbender and Edward Norton considered for the lead roles were Mark Wahlberg and Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Evan Peters, Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey, Ryan Reynolds and Christian Bale, and Woody Harrelson and Daniel Craig. Joseph Gordon-Levitt would eventually be cast as Peter Grimes.
- James Wan changed the names of the characters, the occupations of some characters, and the reason for vendetta to differ from the original film. In fact, Wan considers this film a "spiritual sequel" rather than a remake.
- Sophie Turner dyed her hair black to resemble Zooey Deschanel.
- In the scene where Carl-as-Joey has sex with Haley in the bathtub, Edward Norton improvised the part where Carl slams his head on the tub.
- Michael Fassbender speaks with an American accent in the movie, which was his choice.
- The studio originally wanted a PG-13 rating, but James Wan fought for an R rating.
- Early drafts of the script had Rachel dying after being raped by Joey Grimes, and there was going to be a love triangle between Carl, Joey, and Haley. James Wan decided to axe this idea however for unknown reasons.
- In the final scene between Carl and Haley, Sophie Turner ad-libbed the line, "Dad, stop flirting!" Kirsten Dunst's chuckle was geniune.