Chuck Norstadt is an unhappy 12-year-old, who dreams of going to boarding school and eventually to joining the military like his father, but before he can get there, he needs his school grades to improve. He finds help in the form of local recluse, Justin McLeod a former teacher whose face was horribly disfigured in a car accident and afterwards was shunned from society. Chuck learns life lessons as well as school work as the two become friends.
The late lamented Spy magazine once ran a fine feature called Celebrity Refuseniks in which they examined the tendency of 90s stars to wish to be known for anything other than the talent that gained them their fame. Madonna wants to be an actress, Naomi Campbell wants to be a singer and Mel Gibson wants people to forget his outrageous good looks for a moment and take him seriously as an actor.
Not that Gibson isn't already a perfectly acceptable, enormously engaging screen presence, but that's apparently not quite enough, for here, in his directing debut, he turns up as a reclusive polymath, scarred Nikki Lauda-style by a terrible accident. This handicap is presumably meant to introduce the degree of difficulty that makes his performance all the more impressive. Instead it merely leaves you wondering why he bothered.
Had he not been both an A-list star and would-be director nobody would ever have suggested that this was a natural part for him to play. The Man Without A Face is essentially a rather dull two-hander, with Gibson's Justin McLeod acting as tutor to alienated 12-year-old Chuck (Stahl) during a summer vacation in the late 60s, offering lots of opportunities for those scenes of showy book learning so beloved of all those actors who wish they'd got Robin Williams' part in Dead Poets Society.
Despite all the empirical evidence to the contrary, the confused 12-year-old who finds himself, via the dedication of a great teacher, the works of the Bard and a little male company, is one of those movie cliches which seems to have a life entirely of its own.
Mel Gibson miscasts himself in this fairly dull unoriginal movie.