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Bigga Than Ben is a crime-fuelled tale of two likeable but wayward Russian "pieces of Moscow scum" who arrive in London intent on bettering themselves and amassing an easy fortune. But it's not long before Spiker (Andrei Chadov) and Cobakka (Ben Barnes) realise that, legally, they aren't going to get very far. So, aided by the dodgy Artash (Ovidiu Matesan) and sidekick Spartak (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin), they learn to shoplift from supermarkets, rip off banks, joyride on the tube and turn mobile phones into crack. . Finding themselves drawn into a shadowy underworld of backstreet drug deals, chav nightclubs, refugees and nymphomaniacs, life begins to turn sour. The highs begin to fade. Spiker badly misses his girlfriend back in Moscow, and seeks consolation in drugs. When he slips into serious addiction and Artash double-crosses them, Cobakka finds himself forced into making some life-changing decisions Written by
Hopelessly misplayed low level crime film about two ill-minded people we can feel nothing but disdain toward.
On occasion, a low budgeted British film which was released on limited release is a thing to get excited about, and is a usually time to enthuse people to go after it in seeking it out - on the occasion of 2007's Bigga Than Ben, not so. Based on a 1999 memoir of two young Russian men whom arrive in London to hit it big in a Capitalist nation, the film is a meandering; self-conscious piece of unfunny comedy combined with uninteresting rags-to-riches story-telling delivered through an annoying pseudo-documentary aesthetic. The film is a hopelessly misjudged failure; an inept and brutally annoying feature about two of the most unlikeable characters you'll see grace a a British film - 87 minutes has rarely felt as long as it does here. Want I wanted out of Bigga Than Ben was an interesting mediation on life in England from the perspective of an immigrant; how one's identity or life dramatically changes given such diverse jumps in culture and, on occasion, political mindsets. What I wanted was something in the vein of 2007's Brick Lane, what I got was an odd amalgamation of Eastern Promises melded with Dumb and Dumber.
Suzie Halewood's film covers the misadventures of leads Cobakka (Barnes) and Spiker (Chadov), two louts whom arrive in London from Moscow to get rich quick away from their far poorer homeland. One would hope that the sorts of things those who wrote the book have admitted to here have since spawned visits from the constabulary; here, most of the criminal acts the lads are forced into turning to are given a jovial and bouncy facelift for the sake of cheap laughs at a mawkish pair. They crash land in what they refer to as "foggy albion", local friend of a similar immigrated ilk Artash (Matesan) holes them up in a small shed within the boundaries of a rich person's house as sharp angles looking directly up at a number of tall structures and pieces of iconography from ground level provide a sense of this very much being a low level look at life in London from the worm's point of view.
Their travels are punctuated by their voice-overs in thick eastern European accents informing us on where they stand, their voices telling us in fairly decent English exactly what's going on as they struggle with the language within the film creating an odd contradiction of linguistic ability. If the narration is from the future, post-misadventures, then that drains whatever very little suspense there is prior to the getting to the finish line. A continuous updating of their cash situation to annoying cash register noises is also apparent, working the first time before wearing out its welcome; an idea the film itself appears to tire of before dropping completely. With London their oyster and money seemingly to be made every-which way, thus begins the tale of these two people delivered under a canopy of lively, jovial, knock-about crime comedy frills in the form of a mock self-help video. In short, it falls hopelessly flat with very little of anything achieved. The film's title is particularly grating, the dropping of the 'e' and the 'r' for sake of an 'a' immediately draws our attention to a self-conscious sense of being "hip" without, I don't think, a hint of irony.
There appears to be this central tract to proceedings which reads something along the lines of the expecting of the audience to get behind these cocksure immigrants whom are coming over and wanting to rip off British natives in an attempt to win big. When everything goes haplessly wrong, the film ill-thinkingly expects our sympathy. It's unfortunate that the majority of people who'll now come to view the film a few years after its release are doing so in the current climate of problems linked to immigration and unemployment; Bigga Than Ben coming to more presently resemble a really misjudged novelty idea that asks us to respect the treating of job hunting and money garnering beneath this canopy of light crime infused comedy led by a pair of idiots.
Halewood struggles with whatever narrative, if any, was embedded within the text she's adapting; the two leads are caricature non-events breezing their way through a piece seriously lacking in any kind of insight or plot. They hop from scene to scene, robbing; thieving; fare dodging; drinking and wanting to get involved with women, none of it really mattering in terms of the order of it playing out with the gradual bringing of everything around so as to demonise the actions of these two landing heavily when drug addiction and the missing of a girlfriend back home appears to sabotage their dream. It's difficult to take a film entitled Bigga Than Ben seriously; even more-so, one which asks us to weep for bawdy immigrants arriving in a nation expecting everything and getting nothing. Little is done to round the characters; very little of any interest is said and the wallowing in the sort of content for the first two thirds before cheaply rounding everything off in an act of obligatory confirmation in the mould of: "by the way, none of the above is recommended" just confirms what a dramatic dead zone the whole thing is. The film is decidedly much Lessa Than anywhere near slightly interesting, as it whittles away centralising on two people Thicka Than any two short planks you're willing to nominate.
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