Pasty Faces


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Low budget laddish Brit flicks are inevitably compared to Lock, Stock and Trainspotting. Let's not go there. David Baker's DIY production stands on its own, with Whipped and the other cut-price homegrowns and does well to have reached the market place.

Baker is an actor and so writes about actors. He understands the humiliation of failed auditions, waiting for the agent to call and filling in with lousy jobs in fast food joints. He has an ear for Glaswegian argot, the wit and prattle of out-of-work bampots. If he had stayed there, built a story around the characters he started with, created a comedy about aspiration in a city where hope lies skin deep and disappointment comes wrapped in self-deprecating humour, the movie might have been more memorable.

In some ways, he makes a braver decision, to open it out and take it on the road, to Vegas, via Hollywood, gathering the cast as he goes. By doing so, he loses the intimacy of a Bill Forsyth moment, relying on the speed of the plot to obscure weaknesses in detail.

None of the characters has time to grow. The closest is Joe (Alan McCafferty), daft sidekick of main man, Mickey (Baker), who idolises Italian American movie stars and behaves like a hooligan when provoked. Actually, he doesn't need to be provoked.

"Do you know where we're from? Scotland! Do you know what that means? We love to pick a fight!"

Joe is the joker and Mickey the straight man. They share a flat in Glasgow, while resting from thespian duties that somehow don't materialise. Joe owes money to loan sharks, which means men with short haircuts and low intelligence threaten him with a near death experience if the debt isn't paid by next Tuesday. Mickey's pal, Steve (Gary Cross), sends a postcard from LA, raving about the place and persuading them to come over - "They'll think you're Ewan McGregor's brother." With the heavies closing in and a taxi waiting, Joe and Mickey escape to the airport.

On arrival in California, Mickey instructs Joe to "play it cool, like the residents", which falls on deaf ears, since Joe is virtually uncontrollable. The opportunity for Baker to have fun with two idiot Scots on American soil is not pushed beyond the running joke: "Where are you guys from? Poland?" He sets up comic situations and then fails to follow through, as if too eager to advance the story.

Steve isn't making it as an actor, as they were led to believe, but works as a cleaner at the studios and lives in a bus with a flat tyre on a disused heliport outside the city. He shares this surprisingly well appointed mobile home with Bobby (Martin McGreechin), a Glaswegian slob, who spends most of his time in bed and contributes nothing to the plot. This is not McGreechin's fault, but Baker's. Why have him there if he's not going to do anything?

Steve suggests they go to Las Vegas and make a fortune at the card tables. Mickey hasn't any better ideas and so they drive across the desert, picking up Jackie (Cora Bissett), a disaffected groupie, who is also from Glasgow, en route. She's another interesting, but wasted character, zany and packed with energy, who finally silences Joe by falling for him.

Meanwhile, the script begins to implode. After losing their money in two seconds flat, they are persuaded to initiate a heist by a man in a dark suit and once they have real guns in their hands, the movie takes on the mantle of pastiche and all credibility is lost.

As a first film, from a standing start, Pasty Faces has many qualities. Baker writes sharp dialogue, McCafferty has comic potential, Cross is solid. Mickey tells the man in the dark suit, "We're not criminals. We're a bunch of arseholes." He's probably right, but is it enough?

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2001
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Pasty Faces packshot
Out-of-work actors from Glasgow go to America and end up robbing a casino in Las Vegas.
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Director: David Paul Baker

Writer: David Paul Baker

Starring: David Paul Baker, Alan McCafferty, Gary Cross, Chloe Annett, Cora Bissett, Martin McGreechin

Year: 2000

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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