Showing in Canberra at Hoyts and Limelight
Directed by Martin Owen
With Sir Michael Caine in the role of Fagin, this modern take on Dickens’ Oliver Twist already had my ears pricked up. And indeed when he comes on screen with that characteristic voice, he is always a pleasure to watch.
This ‘adaptation’ is more of a rewrite. It sees an orphaned Twist with an artistic mother, from whom he receives an art education and probably his talent, grow into a free-running spray paint artist who falls foul of the law and is rescued by Fagin’s band of thieves.
It turns out that Fagin is a former art dealer and the plot centres on art fraud with a focal theme betrayal – by David Walliams’ character, his crooked, sleazy art dealing competitor.
The message about definitions of criminality and wickedness is clear, with our young petty thieves cast as heroes in a world where much more is at stake. The casting of females in a couple of Dickens’ lead character roles is indicative of the times as is the calling out of harassment by both Losberne and Sikes.
Back in Michael Caine territory, the many chase scenes are a kind of on-foot Italian Job. The action is fast-paced from the opening scene and it takes the viewer a little while to catch up and work out what’s going on. As in all such stories, outwitting the law, who are less than intellectually agile, is not just a plot and comedy device but a championing of ‘the little man’ against the establishment. Here the story marries with the real world philosophy of the tag artist.
While this film has not generally received critical acclaim, I enjoyed it, and so did our young house critics. It’s clearly a good match for the teen and sub-teen market, who can find in it issues close to their hearts to talk about. It’s light, full on action, wise-talking and often fun and, in a world where there has been so much COVID gloom, it was a diverting entertainment. Its scant and tenuous relationship to the Dickens from which it borrowed its core elements will not bother a young audience one bit. And nor did it bother me.
And it must be said that the London skyline, which also stars in this film, will look rather spectacular on the big screen.
The film also stars Rafferty Law as Twist, Lena Headey (Sikes), Rita Ora (the Artful Dodger), Sophie Simnett (Red, the love interest), and David Walliams (Losberne the art dealer).
Thanks to Ned & Co for the preview.