Face (1997)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 26, 1997 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Aubry Anne D'Arminio

After a disappointing stint in Hollywood, British director Antonia Bird made her comeback film homegrown. Face is a shrewd and realistic crime drama that is embedded in the genre and politics of Britain. Taking its cue from the country's great crime films such as Get Carter and The Long Good Friday, Face's interests lie in the criminal rather than the crime, in analyzing his subversion rather than offering it as an attractive alternative. It recognizes the British crime film tradition as a forum for dissecting the country's social state and political agenda, and as a soapbox to speak to its male population. Drawing from the mid-'80s defeat of the miners' strike in England, Bird presents Ray (Robert Carlyle), a young activist swept by disillusion into robbery. Years later, imbued with the post-Thatcherite malaise sweeping Britain, Ray cannot justifiably separate crime's own fatal individualism from that of the conservative government. His once subversive London network of disenfranchised workers and family men-turned-criminals will crumble in the same fashion as the Docklands, entrepreneurialism, and Thatcherism, itself -- under greed. Face views crime as a rebellion against the establishment and as its mirror image -- acknowledging both the growing crime rates and the discontent among young men in England at the time it was filmed. Accordingly, Bird does not use cinematic tricks to glamorize corruption. Her camera sleepwalks through Ray's depression as much as it accelerates through his anxiety. Face is an achievement that re-established Bird as an internationally renowned director; the film is honest, thoughtful, and rooted in its homeland.