Small Faces Review

by William Thomas |
Published on
Release Date:

12 Apr 1996

Running Time:

108 minutes



Original Title:

Small Faces

Set in Glasgow at the tail-end of the 60s, Gillies MacKinnon's superb third feature is a tough but humorous tale of brotherly rivalry and gangland warfare which can proudly rank alongside recent Glasgow Film Fund stablemate Trainspotting.

The youngest of the Macleans, 13-year-old Lex (Robertson), is trying to carve an identity for himself. Although drawn to the sensitive, artistic role model of his middle brother Alan (McFadden), he's also seduced by the apparently glamorous existence enjoyed by gang member and eldest brother Bobby (Duffy). Believing he's young and cheeky enough to fit between the two, Lex unwittingly offers himself up as a member of The Glen gang, immediately becoming embroiled in territorial battles with demented rivals The Tongs. After some exhilarating and hysterical pranks (breaking into an art gallery to paint the face of The Glen's leader Charlie onto an exhibit), Lex falls out with Bobby and his gang, and his decision to swap sides provides a terrifying climax.

Co-written with his own brother, Billy, MacKinnon's film takes its lead from the Glasgow gang life the pair witnessed in their youth. The script's shift from high comedy to sadistic violence is startling, empowered by the refusal to hang a slick, hip tag on gruesome fight scenes. Putting the "no stars, just talent" adage to good use, the mainly teenage cast are consistently excellent (Kevin McKidd, Trainspotting's Tommy, is impressively evil), while Robertson captures the dawning realisation that wanting to grow up like your big brother isn't always a good idea. Outstandingly good.

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