Possibly one of cinema’s most filmed stories we now have the latest incarnation of Charles Dickens classic novel Oliver Twist and in an age of limited attention spans it’s been abbreviated to just, Twist. Over the years the filmed adaptations have taken in everything from a conventional version, an Oscar winning musical and even an animated feature with animals, so variations on a theme are starting to run thin and Twist goes down the ‘modern day’ route updating it to present day in what becomes an increasingly loose adaptation.
Here Oliver Twist is played by Raff Law (son of Jude) a budding teenage artist living with his mum who passes away and rather than ending up in a care home he goes feral living wild in London yet keeping himself remarkably clean and well fed and with a penchant for parkour, a skill not readily associated with London’s homeless. It’s when he’s involved in a foot chase with police that he catches the eye of Dodge, another character with an abbreviated name played by pop poppet and Covid criminal, Rita Ora who, along with her mate Batesy, take Twist under their wing and back to their lair introducing him to Fagin (Michael Caine). Now in fairness Caine is knocking on 88 years old and it may well explain why he spends much of the time in his recent films sitting down and this is no different, at one point playing a Russian pensioner with a wandering accent being pushed around in a wheelchair. But the role of Fagin has always been one that is forever associated with Ron Moody’s iconic musical turn followed only by Alec Guinness arguably anti-semitic version in David Lean’s 1948 film. Here though Fagin is not quite the leader of a bunch of thieving pickpockets but rather the criminal mastermind behind a group of erudite chavs out to pull off an art gallery heist owned by David Walliams.
Added to this is the bullish and violent Sykes and much like Dodge the twist here is that Sykes is female as played by Lena Headey an actress who seems to be cast in a lot of rough and ready roles best seen in the underrated ‘Dredd’ (although ‘The Flood‘ saw her in a far more sympathetic role) and as good as an actress Headey is it is another role that is forever associated with Oliver Reed excellent as the shadowy criminal barely able to contain his simmering violent rage.
But Twist is an appropriate title because the makers have taken a lot of liberties with the story not just changing the sex of two key roles but introducing a bi-sexual love story with Nancy (Sophie Simnett) being Sykes girlfriend yet also falling in love with Twist too. Simnett is an attractive 23 year old actress but is put in a couple of scenarios with actors almost twice her age coming on to her that make for awkward viewing. Director Martin Owen briskly paces the films with some enjoyable camera work akin to early Guy Ritchie films and captures a far cleaner London than these characters would normally be found in and the gang’s lair is more like the greatest youth club ever than a den of iniquity (second only to the bar in the Houses of Parliament).
The cast of Twist has a bunch of Brit actors led by Raff Law who is ably supported by Caine and Headey with Rita Ora who seems to be the go-to pop star to lure in the kids but which may well date the film when her pop stardom inevitably fades, she gets too old to be appearing semi naked in tabloids or film makers finally realize that they’ve been had over by casting directors. Fans of Keith Lemon will love Leigh Francis as an overzealous traffic warden and perhaps best is Jason Maza as a pony tailed, bespectacled detective sergeant partnered with Noel Clarke as his Inspector on the trail of the heist. We like Jason Maza, a talented producer (see him at a Q&A with the worst interviewer ever HERE) and increasingly becoming a bit of a scene stealer in his acting roles.
Twist, almost out of necessity, has had to invert and update many of the aspects of the classic tale to remain relevant and this is a bright and breezy adaptation which veers further and further from the original story as the film goes on with a bit of unnecessary swearing and violence in the third act where it abandons Dickens altogether. Though its heist plot doesn’t stand up to scrutiny director Owen keeps things moving along with snappy editing, a decent score and a decent array of British stars in support.
Here’s the Twist trailer…….
TWIST IS RELEASED ON SKY CINEMA ON 29TH JANUARY 2021