Twist review: This bungled take on Charles Dickens is just another Guy Ritchie homage

The film offers a farrago of half-baked ideas and images, held together with all the sturdiness of a few sheets of paper jammed into a paperclip

Twist trailer

Dir: Martin Owen. Featuring: Rafferty Law, Michael Caine, Lena Headey, Rita Ora, Sophie Simnett. 12, 90 mins

Some films are simply inevitable. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, someone, somewhere was always going to create an updated Oliver Twist where he’s a parkouring, graffiti-spraying hipster scamp. That day has finally arrived with the release of Martin Owen’s Twist, a film that knows exactly what it wants to be, but hasn’t a clue how to get there. And so we’re offered a farrago of half-baked ideas and images, held together with all the sturdiness of a few sheets of paper jammed into a paperclip.

As might already be obvious, Twist has very little to do with Dickens’s tale, beyond a few choice names and the generalised concept of a London criminal class. Our hero isn’t an adorable little boy after more gruel but a young adult who goes by the moniker Twist – played by Rafferty Law, son of Jude, a perfectly adept actor who lacks the flair needed to overcome the thinness of the material. Twist is inducted into Fagin’s (Michael Caine) crew and invited along on a high stakes art heist. You see, Fagin was once a celebrated dealer now eager to get back at the man who betrayed him (David Walliams’s persnickety Losberne).

As the new Fagin, Caine languishes in a velvet bathrobe, his eyes drained of their sparkle – you can almost imagine his mind traipsing back through the decades’ worth of better-written, more dignified criminal bosses he’s played. The den he operates out of looks like the open-plan office of a media startup, complete with tacky neon signs (“life’s better when you’re dancing,” one declares) and objets trouvé. Rita Ora – here seemingly to model the best of the Fashion Nova catalogue – stars as the Artful Dodger, known as Dodge, whose cleverness really only applies to how immaculately put together her wardrobe is.

Her main role is to act as conspicuous as possible, in the hope it’ll provide some kind of distraction. She’ll arrive in a police officer costume and a party store blonde bob, expecting to fool everyone she meets. There’s no sense that, as a performance, Ora ever stops being Ora and becomes her character. Lena Headey plays Sikes, the villain of Dickens’s tale, as a snarling, murderous lesbian business goth. Her girlfriend Red (Sophie Simnett), aka Nancy, is less the typical gangster’s moll, more a begrudging other half waiting for the right opportunity to dump her.

Lena Headey plays Sikes, the villain of Dickens’s tale, as a snarling, murderous lesbian business goth

The film wants to achieve a kind of Ocean’s Eleven-esque sheen, and so Fagin briefs everyone with a pre-prepared slideshow. But his plan isn’t particularly smart, nor is it cleanly pulled off. And it’s hard to root for a group of master thieves who seem this openly incompetent. Characters aimlessly tromp across London rooftops – pulling parkour tricks not when it would look the coolest, but when it seems the most unnecessary. Why simply hop over a guardrail when one could dramatically somersault over it? Guns are intermittently pulled out of pockets. At one point, a wild stampede of Deliveroo cyclists appear in a scene that seems oddly reminiscent of Disney’s The Lion King.

With its hectic pace and textbook needle drops – The Fratellis’s “Chelsea Dagger” makes an appearance – Twist never really functions as much more than another Guy Ritchie homage. Its opening scene confidently announces that there will be “no singing, no dancing, and definitely no happy endings”. By the end, it’s completely backtracked on the last of those promises. That, perhaps, is a more impressive swindle than anything these characters achieve. 

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