It begins with, “There’s no singing, no dancing. And definitely no happy ending.”
Damn. I like all those three things. I love Oliver Twist the musical and can do an excellent rendition of Fagin’s “Be Back Soon” if no one is watching. But I was also intrigued enough to check this one out based on the fact that it was inspired by the Charles Dickens novel.
Raff Law (a carbon copy of his dad Jude Law) stars as orphan boy Oliver in this modern-day adaptation. But there’s no soup and no goo-goo eyed boys asking for more. Instead, the movie opens with a promising, fast-paced free running scene married with some sweet beats. To be honest, if the entire film was just this, I would have been happy. One giant YouTube clip of Fagin’s gang just parkouring their way through London would have been awesome. However, the film reaches for loftier heights, trying to shoehorn this Guy Ritchie-esque film into the classic tale its based on.
Here, Oliver Twist is a talented graffiti artist who falls in with Dodge (Rita Ora) and her group of young adult bandits. Their leader, ex-art dealer Fagin (Michael Caine) is locked in a personal vendetta against another art connoisseur Crispin Losberne. And so he gets his merry band of youths to work out an elaborate heist targeting Losberne.
Now, I could have looked past the fact that these orphans, with their streetwear-chic clothing and their rooftop apartment complex, seem to be the richest kids in town. I guess they’re able to steal anything so it’s conceivable that they would have stolen their outfits. I can also appreciate that the film tried to do something different by gender-bending Sikes into a female. The Sikes in the musical was a hulking character whose darkness could be felt permeating the screen. Game of Thrones‘ Lena Headey tries hard to adopt similar menace here. But somehow it falls into a cardboard stereotype of some anti-hero. I was never really sure why she was so angry or self-interested all the time. She just was. Some kudos to the fight scene in which Sikes singlehandedly takes out an entire squad of policemen. But then again…why?! I mean, when will films learn that dressing someone in black, giving them eyeliner and black nail polish does not equal instant villain?
I had high hopes for Michael Caine as Fagin as well. But between his weird Cockney accent and lackluster energy on-screen, I wasn’t sure why he was there at all, other than to fill the character’s shoes. To be fair, the acting from most of the characters seemed a little cringey so perhaps we can put this down to lack of direction.
This entire film could have been so good. It had the promise of something fresh and tasty like Baby Driver, but instead smacked of “try-hard”. Believe me, these words hurt me to write them. But unfortunately, I suspect they’ll ring true for most. Give me back the music. Give me the dancing. Hell, even the free running can stay. But this plot…please sir, I can have no more?