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Article reproduced from the Empire : April 1997


A British Reservoir Dogs? A 90s Long Good Friday? Bob McCabe tools up...

"It's set in the East End where I've lived for the past 20 years", explains director Antonia Bird of Face, the heist-gone-wrong thriller that has (temporarily at least) wrested her away from the clutches of Hollywood. "It's about the choices that you have if you come from a working class background in inner city London and you're bright. There's no work, so either you go into crime or you just give in."

Bird is snatching a brief lunch in the front room of a high-rise flat in the East End, recently converted for the film into a junkie squat.

Face focuses on a group of low-level gangsters, or "faces", who pull off one last big job, only to have someone on the inside rip them off. It aims to be that rarity - a London crime thriller that mixes violent realism with genuine human characters and a strong and unexpected political undercurrent. Robert Carlyle stars as Ray.

"This is not the life that he chose early on," Carlyle explains, with a perfect East End accent replacing his usual Scottish brogue. (It's not a wanky method thing he insists, he just has to keep the accent going all day to keep track.)

"Up to the age of 24, he was active politically, took part in demonstrations, picket lines and stuff like that. And during the miners' strike he decided there was no way you can beat these people, so his thoughts turned to crime..."

It's a Saturday afternoon halfway through a shoot that has yet to see the mercury rise above zero. One man who is keeping warm (in Carlyle's trailer) is Damon Albarn. Yes, *that* Damon Albarn, in his film debut and giving a good impression of a man having his teeth pulled whenever Empire asks a question. *snip* (boring quote from the very boring Damon)

The movie's bunch of cool cons and cock-up-with-the-cash plot line does bear a passing resemblance to a certain Reservoir Dogs.

"There's stuff in the film that is reminiscent of Tarantino," admits Carlyle. "There's a scene in a car where they're going to rob this place, and there's a radio quiz on worth 800, 900 quid and they're talking about winning this as well."

Back in the high-rise junkie squat, Bird elaborates.

"There are Tarantino elements but I think we're dealing in much more depth with the characters," she says. "We're seeing *why* they do things, what are the outside events and pressures that make them make the violent decisions. You won't come out of the theatre like I came out of Pulp Fiction, you'll come out thinking, "God that's shitty, I don't want to be involved with that". It's similar territory to Reservoir Dogs, but it's done from the soul of the people involved..."

Face will be released in the autumn.

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Last Update: 9 April, 1997