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That might sound FACEtious however, to some extent Carlyle plays a
similar sort of character who is unable to hold down a regular job.
(Carlyle always has a look of total anxiety, as if he just opened up a
tax audit it from the Inland Revenue). He is believable as Ray a gun
welding crook , not a phyco path, but a former lefty who got fed up
supporting fringe left-wing causes with nothing to show for it. He
decides to earn a living the old fashioned way 'by stealing it'! Ray
struggles to balance a relationship with his mother, girlfriend as well
as being troubled by his conscience about what he does. He does not
particularly enjoy doing what he does and often wonders if it's worth
it baring in mind he has done time in prison.
It has the typical big robbery near the beginning where they have just two minutes to get in and out of the security complex, the obligatory 'have a go hero' guard who gets pistol whipped and then the escape. Much to the despair of the gang although they get a reasonable amount of cash by the time they take out expenses and split it 5 ways there not a lot to show for it. Was their poultry whack worth the risk for a 15 year stretch?
To make matters worse and more complicated the tables are turned when the money is actually stolen from the gang, presumably by somebody who knows the routine and the gangs movements. Everybody suspects everybody else and Ray desperately tries to hold the gang together despite finger pointing, blame as well as trying to evade the police who are on to them. The next part of the film unfolds around betrayal, double crossing, desperation, evading capture and greed.
The cast is good, Ray Winston does his usual, Damien Albarn tries to look tough, the weaselly nutter played by Philip Davis is entertaining and Steve Waddington plays a heavy that loves comics and is totally dependent on Ray for guidance . It's also good to see British veteran character Peter Vaughan no stranger to playing a crook , plus longtime downtrodden Brookside housewife Sue Johnson still rallying to left wing cause as Rays weary but devoted mum.
Apart from the robbery there is a couple of big shoot outs, tension, a mystery, treachery and a couple of odd twists which keep up your interest. The conclusion of the movie is probably well balanced in the end most of the unlikable characters get what's coming to them! Despite possible flaws the cast certainly hold the movie together and it's well worth a watch!
(Note: the greasy Irish junkie at the beginning was played by none other Gerry Conlon former Guildford bombing suspect whose conviction was quashed a number of years ago.)
This excellent movie was an undeserved flop on release. It's hard to understand why, since it has quite a broad appeal, with a likeable cast, some terrific action sequences and a plot which twists and turns until the final reel. It's also, like The Long Good Friday, a movie with serious political undertones. Rent it, see it, make some noise about it, so that this film isn't forgotten, because I look forward to the day it gets the attention it deserves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story is an amalgam of others that you may have seen: a ram raid
operation using a heavy truck (a la Heat ), a setup that includes
a rat in the ranks (as in Reservoir Dogs ), a police station
invasion (straight out of Terminator ) all of which combine to
present a passable thriller that's well acted, and produces the
requisite surprises for the unwary viewer.
Try as I might, however, I can't quite accept Robert Carlyle as a vicious bank robber; Billy Connelly would have been much better, indeed perfect as the disillusioned socialist turned criminal. Ray Winstone, I think, was born to play criminals in movies; he's so good at it, you wonder who his role model is (who can forget him in Ripley's Game  or Sexy Beast ?). But, for this movie, the one you have to watch is Philip Davis as Julian, whose quasi-sociopathic turn does wonders for the twists and suspense throughout this movie. Quite frankly, if not for his performance, this would have been a far lesser movie.
The rest of the cast is uniformly adequate. Lena Headey, as Connie, plays the part of Carlyle's woman, but remains mostly in the back ground, only achieving more importance as the gang's business continues to unravel. It was nice to see Peter Vaughn, even in a bit part, as an aging friend of Carlyle; in fact, Vaughn's presence in the story is a bit of a puzzle because he's in it for all of seven or eight minutes only, and contributes almost nothing to the plot. However, he has such a delightfully lecherous smile...
There are some inventive scenes. The camera work for the ram raid is superb, with excellent editing, using many reverse angle shots and very quickly done seamlessly, as it should be. Later, when Carlyle finds out that their stolen money is being stolen by somebody else, he discusses the problem with his girl friend; and while he does so, he stands in front of a poster for a movie from 1990, Hidden Agenda, a Ken Loach classic! Carlyle shoulda taken notice of the writing on the wall, hmmm? The showdown between all the crooks (those still alive) at a cop's house is stark, casually vicious and shattering. And the finale in the police station is deadly serious (a big body count) but also borders on the camp, particularly when Julian goes plain nuts. You have to see it to appreciate it...
Sure, it is a well-done movie, and better than the usual run of cops and robbers film from the Brits. But, as I said, if it hadn't been for Julian grimly determined to get his money (much like Lee Marvin in Point Blank  who just wanted his $40,000 and killed almost everybody to get it), it would have been more humdrum than humming along...
This is one of the best British Gangster movies of all time! Sadly overlooked. Robert Carlyle is brilliant and authentic in his delivery as a gang leader with a conscience. Like 'Clockers' this is a movie that makes you think. This is not just a gangster/robbery movie. It looks into the lives of each character and their interaction with society and each other. It looks at trust and conscience. The dialog is the best I have heard in this sort of movie and very real. Brilliant performances from all! Great story and ending. Why this was not promoted properly at the time I don't know. Its better than the middle class made Lock Stock, and on a par with The Long Good Friday. Watch and enjoy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The basic plot is a familiar one: a group of hoodlum misfits who form a
chaotic "band of brothers" with an unspoken code of gangster ethics.
After following a marginally successful heist, the plot starts
dissecting the relationships, and the code starts breaking down until
the eventual conclusion. There are scenes of each key members' familial
relationships, which helps round out the characters, and helps sets the
stage for a father/daughter dynamic what starts the unravelling.
Set within this fabric of a story is the main character Ray (played by Robert Carlyle), the leader of the gang. He has become disillusioned with his liberal mother's causes, and has gone to the criminal side, only to find that he is doomed to more disillusions of the path he has chosen. Why he has such faith in the social world of this criminal world is not explained, but it eventually becomes his hubris. As his world is crumbling around him, he seeks salvation by begging his girlfriend to start a new life with him, but she is fed up with his way of life, and doesn't see that they have any future together. She essentially says no.
As everything spirals down around him, Ray has one last chance: a wistful hope of a rendevouz with his girlfriend. That scene is worth experiencing without my spoiling it.
There are great performances everywhere. Ray Winston shows us the core of a seasoned gang soldier, and his hopes for his daughter's happiness and well-being. Philip Davis as Julian is the "loose canon" of the group (literally), and his scenes are very powerful...you just never know what he is capable of. The sweet innocence of Stevie, and Ray's affection for him, becomes a reflection of Ray's past, and is a constant reminder of the inner struggle within Ray.
This is a very violent film, and that may turn people off, but the violence is not gratuitous.
Carlyle at his best, great script and a fantastic cast. I would strongly recommend anyone who has not seen this film as yet to get it immediately. British cinema is finally starting to move away from romantic comedies and period pieces, and showing that they can make excellent films on small budgets. Another must see, is Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels.
Believe it or not, Britain did make decent gangster films prior to Guy
Ritchie's arrival with 'Lock Stock' style of film-making. And, one of
those that has and probably always will be eclipsed by Ritchie's way of
film-making will be 'Face.' And that's slightly surprising as it has
two reasonably big names in British cinema in the lead roles
Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone.
Perhaps one of its 'flaws' (and I put that word in quotes because, personally, I don't consider it a flaw) is the way it's directed. It's hardly an exercise in style. Ritchie's 'Lock Stock' films were that rare breed that seamlessly blended style AND substance. Well, Face does have the substance to be a great film, it just doesn't have the style.
It feels a bit like a 'made-for-TV' movie (perhaps because it was made by the BBC?) with its *slightly* bland style of direction. There's no snappy montages or cracking tunes to heighten the mood and atmosphere. This is probably why it never really appealed to the masses.
It's about a bank robbery gone wrong (yes, I know that brief summary also sums up Reservoir Dogs, but, trust me, it's nothing like that). The criminals get away with the loot, but someone wants it all and are prepared to use lethal force to get it.
Okay, so it doesn't have the style of Lock Stock or the instant cool of a Tarrantino movie, but it is a good little number in its own right. If you're into your gangster films and aren't looking for something 'uber-cool' then you could do worse than watch this one.
You'll probably find it on TV late at night, or as part of a TV/Movie streaming service. If so, it's definitely worth a watch.
Face is among the subgenre of movies that can still blindside me with
severe mediocrity. There are intermittent times when I simply cannot
resist a cheeky gangster flick, and Face is one of the candygrams that
blows up in your face. There's nothing inherently wrong with the story
except that it has been used more times than a hooker's hanky, the
basic premise anyway.
The film begins with Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone, two of England's great screen badasses, breaking into a drug dealer's apartment, posing as police officers in order to raid his cash and his stash. The next scene begins the unfolding of the mainline of the plot, a bank robbery. And they have their logistics man, Robert Carlyle's old friend from prison, et cetera. Then the third event in the film is the inevitable betrayal within the heist crew. And of course there's Carlyle's nagging, guilt-laying girlfriend. I've always wondered what else will happen in a crime film whenever the story's pivotal heist occurs in the first twenty minutes other than betrayals and nagging token female characters. These filmmakers don't seem to have shared my curiosity.
Aside from a small portion of time given to Carlyle's backstory as a war protester, Face is just another recycled crime flick for teenagers telling the age-old tale of a group of violent criminals and what happens to them after they steal a lot of money. It even employs another thriller gimmick: It's set over the course of 48 hours in and around the city, in this case London. What director Antonia Bird, who did later direct a decent Robert Carlyle movie called Ravenous, tries to do is gloss the film with grunge, badassery and style as a substitute for expanding on what she pulled off the assembly line, one of the results of this choice being a soundtrack that is unusually bad for an English gangster film.
I'm sure I'm not being fair enough to this movie. There are several assembly line movies that are entertaining enough, but frankly I don't feel that requires an explanation that differentiates between this and them. To me, if you're making an insincere movie, the audience has the right to be subjective. Whether one considers it a good movie or not is now pure luck. With Face, I was bored and cynical. If it were on TV on a lazy day or when I need to kill a little time, I might stay for a few minutes of the shootout in the street (in which you can briefly hear an unmistakable soundbite of Tim Roth's wailing early in Reservoir Dogs), or for one good if very brief scene, where Carlyle is comforted by Winstone by hugging him when he's crying.
"Face" is a good solid gangster story. Five armed robbers do an
exciting heist of a bank collection center and get away with it. Each
hides his loot but then it's stolen, with some murders thrown in. They
then track down what leads they have to get their dough back.
This story follows the pattern of "The Asphalt Jungle" in which the robbery succeeds and then things fall apart, with the twist that the robbers get robbed.
The picture is slowed down, in my view, by too much focus on the political background of one of the robbers, who used to be heavy into left-wing protests and movements, as was his mother. This seems to have been an attempt to humanize the robber and explain his motivation, but it really did not gel. Also, there were too many flashbacks of him and the protests.
The story itself is somewhat lacking in complications and development.
The character arc of the main protagonist (Ray, played by Robert Carlyle) does not have the impact it should in a movie like this. Ray Winstone is such a strong actor and presence that Carlyle rather pales in comparison, too often looking confused and lacking in the toughness an armed robber would have.
Despite these flaws, the movie is a serviceable gangster yarn with enough twists and turns and exciting action to uplift it. This includes a sequence inside a police station. Also adding a great deal are the supporting performances of two members of the gang. One reads sci-fi novels and the other has a nasty temper.
This is one of those unusual films where the actors all did their parts
quite well and convincingly, however, the film itself seemed to be lacking
something. I am sorry to say that part of the issue is with the editing.
I don't mind edits that tend to jump between past and present, but there just wasn't enough to demonstrate why Ray the alleged former socilist had turned to a life of crime. Therefore the jump-cut references fail to make the connection between his memory of a fateful protest in his youth and the man he was today.
The acting was brilliant, and each artist did a superb job, which is why I give it a 7. You could see that perhaps the writer had intended a more meaningful story, but some of it must have ended up on the cutting room floor.
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