Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 12, 2021)
When I went to open this review, I planned to make a snarky joke about how 2021’s Twist offered an update on the Charles Dickens classic about an English orphan. As it happens, my attempted witticism proved true, as the movie does adapt Oliver Twist - whoops!
After his mother dies suddenly, “Twist” (Raff Law) flees and lives on the streets, with an amateur avocation as a graffiti artist. Eventually he finds himself drawn to the paternal nature of Fagin (Michael Caine), an older man who operates a street gang, and Twist becomes one of the crew.
When the boys attempt an art theft, it goes awry. This creates complications for Twist, as he finds a mix of challenges in the aftermath of this event.
Famously, Michael Caine commented that he never saw 1987’s Jaws the Revenge - a film in which he starred – but he loved the house that its paycheck built. Caine readily admits that he sometimes takes roles just for the money.
Look left at the Blu-ray’s cover and examine the glum expression on Caine’s face. Does that tell us he took Twist solely for the bucks?
Probably. While not the worst film Caine has ever made, Twist nonetheless fails to offer an engaging take on the Dickens tale.
In theory, there’s nothing wrong with a version of Oliver Twist set in modern-day London, but the film just feels like it tries too hard to be self-consciously “new”. Oddly, a lot of these stabs at “freshness” seem stale, especially in the way Twist and other characters gratuitously go everywhere via parkour moves.
Parkour was exciting to see in films maybe 15 years ago, but now? Not so much, and the movie’s use of those techniques doesn’t make a lick of sense in the universe set up here.
The characters’ bounding moves seem like a self-conscious attempt to add spice and excitement to the proceedings. Instead, they just come across as perplexing and pointless.
Twist also fails to adapt Dickens in a meaningful manner. Indeed, the connections between the source and the new film seem superficial at best, as Twist just uses vague links as a gimmick more than anything else.
Really, if you eliminate the use of character names from Dickens, you’d find it next to impossible to realize that Twist translates the 19th century novel. Beyond the notion of an orphan who gets involved with a gang of criminals, the two properties share little in common.
Instead, Twist just gives us a basic heist flick with occasional character flourishes. It occasionally throws out a Guy Ritchie vibe, but it usually seems too bland to even come across like a competent ripoff.
Can I find anything to praise about Twist? As “Red” – this movie’s version of Dickens’ Nancy – Sophie Simnett looks really pretty.
And there ends the positive portion of this review. Twist squanders the possibilities that come with the Dickens source and turns into a wholly pointless, dull stab at a thriller.