Movie Review: Caine, Headey and Rita Ora do Modern Day Dickens, with Jude Law’s son as “Twist”

Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” is dressed up as a modern day graffiti artist in the income-inequality London of today in “Twist,” a contemporary take on the tale which — our narrator/hero promises — “won’t ‘ave no singin'” or dancing.

And looking at the cast, the Banksy/Amy Winehouse era Carnaby Street-Revisited costuming, it’s easy to shout “Oy, you lot are ONTO something!”

Lena Headey (“300”) as a murderously mop-topped menace Sikes, Rita Ora as a sexy, swaggering artful Dodger, Jude and Sadie’s fit, handsome and youthful son Raff Law as Oliver “Twist” and Oscar winner Sir Michael Caine as a twinkling, scheming old rascal Fagin, with all the best lines?”

“We’re all ‘orphans,’ here.”

Dickens wasn’t really writing the first “caper comedy,” but you can see it in the characters, situations and structure of the novel and every adaptation, especially this one, with its recognizable rich “mark” (David Walliams) and ever-present legal interloper Bumble (Leigh Francis).

Make your hero a graffiti bandit infamous for “reaching places other people can’t” for his art/vandalism, throw in a little parkour, turn the tug of war over “Nancy,” tagged “Red” (Sophia Simnett) here, between Sikes and Oliver into something romantic and sexy, and the hard work is done.

This plays, and thanks to the lovely leads, dazzling costumes and high-class nature of the caper — art theft — it is easy on the eyes and practically skips by.

No, it’s not deep and lacks pathos or any emotional investment in the characters. And really, there’s nothing remotely surprising in the phone-hacking/security-cracking/painting switching plot. But what do you expect out of a 90 minute lark?

The wall-tagging spray-painter Twist falls in with Dodger, Batesy (Franz Drameh) and the gang after intervening in a near-arrest. He takes in their pilfered/pickpocketed vintage-clothing-boutique “club house” digs and it isn’t long before he abandons his rooftop tent camping and joins the mob.

Having a fellow parkour practitioner, the fabulously fit and beautiful Red, to “train” with is an enticement. But the sage Fagin closes the deal.

“An idealist, eh? ‘All property is theft?’ Ideals are useless, like an appendix. Cut’em out!”

Twist joins the “merry band” for a revenge heist, looting the illegal hoard or big time art dealer (Walliams, famous for “Little Britain?).

The lingering threat of the murderous Sikes hangs over the entire gang, with cops hounding Oliver and trying to “turn” him, Sikes standing in the way of his pursuit of Red and the like. The obstacles and “twists” arrive — preordained, right on cue and utterly unsurprising.

But it’s cute enough, with Caine lending it some charm, Law holding his own and Headey toting the “heavy” load. Call it a “bad movie” that plays, because that’s all this shoots for.

Rating: R for some violence and language (profanity)

Cast: Michael Caine, Lena Headey, Rita Ora, Raff Law, Sophia Simnett, Franz Drameh, Leigh Francis and David Walliams.

Credits: Directed by Martin Owen, scripted by John Warthall, Salley Collett and Matthew Parkhill. A Saban Films/Roku release.

Running time: 1:32

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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