Face of Terror (March 29/05)
Face of Terror marks the second direct-to-video release from director Bryan Goeres thus far this year (following Art Heist), and if nothing else, the film confirms Goeres' passion for over-the-top, extremely cliched storytelling. Packed with familiar plot points and unnecessarily violent set-pieces, Face of Terror will undoubtedly thrill action fans who long for the genre's golden age (ie the 1980s).
Rick Schroder stars as Nick Harper, an American cop who must travel to Spain after his younger sister goes missing there. Though he initially attempts to work with the local police force, Harper quickly grows impatient with their lack of concern and starts investigating on his own. He finds an ally in Anna Palacios (Paulina Gálvez), an assistant at the modeling company where his sister booked a few jobs. There's also a subplot involving a gung-ho terrorist (played by Eric Balfour) who's using girls as human bombs, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the two storylines are going to converge before the credits roll.
Face of Terror features some of the hoariest cliches in the action genre, though the film never takes itself too seriously (a good thing, given how ridiculous certain sequences are). From the dialogue (a couple of choice examples: "I go where the fight takes me!" and "screw procedure!") to the obligatory foot chase (in which Harper bumps into a delivery man and runs through a busy cafe) to Harper's treatment of suspects (he needlessly roughs one up, though it certainly wasn't warranted), virtually every aspect of Face of Terror seems to have emerged directly from a guidebook for '80s-style shoot-'em-ups (the film even features an angry Captain, for crying out loud).
Inexplicably, it took four people to write the film's screenplay, which is peppered with many other similarly ludicrous moments (ie just before an innocent bystander is shot by a baddie, Harper yells out "no!" in slow-motion). Yet despite the rampant silliness on display here, the film is actually kind of entertaining - albeit in a completely mindless, eye-rolling kind of way. It doesn't hurt that Schroder is so effective in the central role, imbuing Harper with a toughness that used to be ingrained in the majority of action movie heroes (before it became fashionable to allow a certain amount of vulnerability to creep in). To allay any concerns that Harper is completely lacking in sensitivity, there's a thoroughly bizarre sequence in which the cop dashes into a burning building to save a baby (no, really).
Face of Terror is the kind of movie that Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal cranked out on a regular basis 15 years ago, and on that level, it certainly works.