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The Independent Culture
Face (18), Distant Horizon, available to rent

Perhaps director Antonia Bird was given a British crime thriller-by-numbers kit for her birthday and felt obliged to play with it for the benefit of its donor - little else can explain the existence of this drearily predictable trawl through "saarf Laandun" gangland. Robert Carlyle (who ought to have known better) is a career criminal leading a gang of British character actors, including Ray Winstone (ditto).

A heist goes wrong, "tools" are pulled and "claret" gets spilled, but the violence with which the various gang members treat one another is as nothing compared to the depravities visited upon the Queen's English in the name of dialogue - he may not be credited, but the touch of Viz comic's cockney old lag, Big Vern, is everywhere.

To make things worse, Carlyle's character is saddled with a do-gooding girlfriend and a conscience harking back to his Marxist days. If the producers wanted the film to be The Long Good Friday as Ken Loach might have made it, why didn't they ask him to direct?

Clubbed To Death (18), Artificial Eye, available to buy

Raven-eyed beauty Elodie Bouchez dozes off on a bus one night and pitches up in a wild, dionysian nightclub on the outskirts of Paris, her spirit liberated and life transformed in the arms of a handsome junkie. Well, of course she does, silly; this is a French film after all - you can't expect to wake up on a night bus and have an existential revelation in Ongar, can you.

Yolande Zauberman's lethargic drama probably has the nugget of a far better film buried within it - the club, heaving with the city's dispossessed immigrants and drop-outs, manages to be both enthralling and dangerous - but the turgid plot and badly underdrawn characters hardly encourage you to prospect further. Caught between Bouchez, Beatrice Dalle (who appears sporting a pair of lips so large you could retail them as a novelty sofa) and mobsters, Roschdy Zem as Bouchez's snog is little more than eye candy to complement his striking lovers. Come to think of it, it's hard to recall any decent film that spends more than five minutes in a nightclub.

This World, Then the Fireworks (18), First Independent, available to rent

You'll probably want to chuck your video recorder in the dishwasher after it's spat out Michael Oblowitz's grimy little noir - its pristine, Sixties title sequence is by far the most visually hygienic passage you'll see.

The film's provenance - it's an adaptation of a Jim Thompson novel - is suitably grubby but Oblowitz works hard to embellish the tale of incestuous siblings shooting their way around Fifties middle America. Billy Zane, capitalising on the deranged sleaziness that made his name in Phillip Noyce's Dead Calm and lent Titanic a panto quality, is matched in decadence by Gina Gershon as his sister. If only as much attention had been paid to the script. Though I've not read Thompson's novel, I'm sure the film would have managed more than noirish posturing had it concentrated on the very things that obviously inspired the production: words.