Twist (2003)

reviewed by
David N. Butterworth

TWIST (2003)
A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2004 David N. Butterworth
** (out of ****)

The idea of taking Charles Dickens's "Oliver Twist" and "updating" it (by

turning London pick-pockets into Toronto street hustlers) might have sounded

good on paper but by the time this dreary, overwrought, and at times sadly laughable

drama spills forth it becomes crystal meth clear it wasn't.

Former-television-actor-turned-big-screen-writer/director Jacob Tierney's

intentions are strictly honorable with the film bringing attention to the plight

of Toronto's disaffected youth, many of them junkies who feel little choice

but to turn tricks for a "living." As one character asks of another in the

film, "Do you work (hustle) so that you can do this (shoot up)?" "No. I do

this so that I can work." That's the most poignant observation in a film that

suffers from a bad case of wet-behind-the-ears direction.

This is only Tierney's second film behind the camera and it shows.

Likewise the writing--and the obsequious song score--leave much to be desired

and from a production standpoint the piece unfolds like a filmed version of

the Toronto Plays and Players amateur production night... and it's not very

well filmed either! The opening shot announces quite plainly that "no tripods

were used in the production of this motion picture" and lighting, too, appears

to be an afterthought. That said the film is more dogmatic than Dogme 95.

Amateur, with one or two exceptions, also describes the film's acting talent.

Joshua Close, who plays the runaway Oliver with the David-like (as in Michaelangelo's

David) good looks, lacks charisma and acting chops; Michèle Barbara Pelletier

as Nancy, owner of "The Three Cripples" diner in which a lot of the action takes

place, is stiff and obvious, as is Gary Farmer as the brutish Fagin. Disquietingly,

both Pelletier and Farmer have several telephone "conversations" with someone

named Bill and it soon becomes patently clear to the viewer that THERE'S NOBODY

ON THE OTHER END OF THE LINE!!  Oliver?  Nancy?  Fagin?  Bill?  They didn't

go and use the same names as Dickens did they? They certainly did. Now that's

either P.T. Anderson-styled chutzpah or a serious miscalculation (and my money's

on the latter).
     The Artful Dodger (or simply Dodge as he goes by here) is played by Nick

Stahl (from "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," "In the Bedroom," and Larry

Clark's obnoxious "Bully") and, thankfully, he's one of the previously mentioned

exceptions. I've always liked Stahl, who keeps picking interesting, non-obvious

projects, and he delivers another thoughtful, down-and-dirty performance. Dodge

is a flesh-and-blood disciple: hard-edged yet scared--and scarred--by life;

down on his luck; battling occupational demons as well as familial ones. Three

scenes involve Dodge's brother David (Tygh Runyan), who shows up to offer some

self-righteous flagellation--two of these are so identically shot and scripted

you can't tell them apart and a third is just too incredible (and distasteful)

for words.

Stahl's presence and abilities keep you watching while Tierney's script

renders almost everything else inconsequential. It's the idea that got away,

a conceit that might have worked with tighter direction, convincing performers

and, perhaps, a modicum of meaning, rather than meandering. Of course, there's

nothing here a handful of show-stopping production numbers--or a good steam

cleaning--couldn't fix.
     "Please sir can I have some more?"  Not bloody likely.
David N. Butterworth
Got beef? Visit "La Movie Boeuf"

online at

X-RAMR-ID: 38282
X-Language: en
X-RT-ReviewID: 1298049
X-RT-TitleID: 1133203
X-RT-SourceID: 878
X-RT-AuthorID: 1393
X-RT-RatingText: 2/4

The review above was posted to the newsgroup ( for German reviews).
The Internet Movie Database accepts no responsibility for the contents of the review and has no editorial control. Unless stated otherwise, the copyright belongs to the author.
Please direct comments/criticisms of the review to relevant newsgroups.
Broken URLs in the reviews are the responsibility of the author.
The formatting of the review is likely to differ from the original due to ASCII to HTML conversion.

Related links: index of all reviews