TWIST – Review by Diane Carson

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Twist falls flat on all counts.

Director Martin Owen’s film Twist has three elements going for it. First, good heist films will offer clever caper planning and split-second, dazzling execution. Second, updated adaptations of iconic novels, here Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, can delight with imagination interpretations. And third, there’s the always reliable, distinguished British actor Michael Caine. But, sadly, Twist strikes out on all three counts.

Feeling more like a work straining for relevance than a coherent, captivating drama, the plot meanders and then lurches forward. Here it is. After an introductory East London killing and the hooded murderer’s theft of a significant envelope (a virtual MacGuffin), we’re off. Fleeing the police enraged over his graffiti sprayed on their van, Oliver, not so ingeniously called Twist, free runs into The Artful Dodger, called Dodge, and Batesey. Introduced to Fagin (Caine) Twist settles in and agrees to help Fagin’s ragtag street gang steal a valuable 1731 William Hogarth painting (A Harlot’s Progress) from an art dealer who betrayed Fagin years before, thus satisfying his desire for revenge. I’ll reveal no more to avoid any spoilers, not that the inane, disjointed details in any way prove satisfying.

And there’s more bad news. The heavy-handed, intrusive, wall-to-wall music destroys any subtlety or pleasure with at least fourteen selections competing for worst choice. Håvard Helle’s cinematography works hard to distract from the maddening lack of interest, adding unhinged camera moves—twisting, turning, rotating, flipping 360 degrees, with even fast forward moments that give the story a cartoonish style. The only viewers who will welcome this misguided mess are parkour and free running fans because there’s plenty of that with a vain attempt to add the energy otherwise absent. Even here, however, the editing robs parkour of its athletic, acrobatic flow.

Actors do their best, trying hard to care, including Jude Law’s son Raff, Lena Headey, and Caine. The best elements are a couple gender switched characters, some psychedelic colors defining a couple scenes, a cute Doberman, and a mere ninety minutes running time. Beyond that, Twist is an opportunity bungled.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.