A perennial favorite with film producers, Charles Dickens’ second classic novel “Oliver Twist,” published back in 1838, serves as the source material for director Martin Owen’s “Twist” (*1/2 OUT OF ****), and it is hyped as “a modern take on the classic tale.” If you’re counting, “Twist” is the 18th adaptation of Dickens’s timeless tome. “Twist” ages the protagonist so he is now a teen, and the story unfolds in contemporary London.


Although he spent two months polishing his parkour skills, Jude Law’s lookalike son Raff said a seasoned stunt man stepped in to replace him for more audacious escapades. You’ll know for sure when it isn’t Raff because you won’t see Raff’s face when he performs the stunts. Meantime, the parkour acrobats definitely earned their pay doubling for him.

Similarly, all the juveniles in the beloved narrative are older, and their leader, Fagin (two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine of “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “The Cider House Rules”), musters them as his arms and legs for his shady shenanigans. “Killers Anonymous” director Martin Owen and scenarists Sally Collett of “Max Cloud” and John Wrathall of “The Liability” have given both the Bill Sikes and Artful Dodger characters a gender makeover, so they are now ladies.

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“Game of Thrones” actress Lena Headey plays Sikes as a psychotic lesbian with an itchy trigger finger, while “Fifty Shades of Grey” actress Rita Ora is cast as Dodge. Nevertheless, this gender-swapping strategy for diversity doesn’t enhance “Twist.” Incidentally, “Twist” isn’t the first time Dickens  has been updated. The Disney animated musical “Oliver & Company” (1988) took place in contemporary New York City. Moreover, some characters were turned into animals! For example, Oliver Twist was a stray kitten, while The Artful Dodger was a dog.

Oliver Twist (newcomer Raff Law) never met his father, but his mother has spoiled him. Molly Twist (Sally Collett) taught her son to appreciate good art. She took him to the National Gallery, and they drew pictures on their sketch pads about dream vacations in exotic settings. Tragically,

Molly died from unknown causes, leaving her juvenile son to fend for himself. Refusing to be institutionalized, Oliver vanishes without a trace in London, only to emerge years later as a gifted graffiti artist.

369manifestingDangling perilously from skyscrapers, Oliver spray paints epic pictures that people can see from afar. One day when he is eluding a fuming London Traffic Warden (Leigh Francis), Oliver attracts the attention of Dodge (singer-songwriter Rita Ora) and Batesy (Franz Drameh of “Hereafter”) who help him out after he loses his pants while fleeing from the police.

They take him to meet Fagin (Michael Caine), an avuncular crime lord who provides bed and board for wayward youth who do his bidding. Mind you, “Twist” is a far cry from the army of pickpockets that Fagin mobilized throughout Victorian London in Dickens’ novel. Eventually, Oliver forsakes his lone wolf solitude after Fagin dispatches Red (Sophie Simnett of “Acres and Acres”) with an invitation to one of Fagin’s home-cooked family meals.

Revitaa ProPredictably, since he is infatuated with Red, Oliver joins Fagin’s family of thieves without a second thought. Specifically, he replaces Tom Chitling (newcomer Dominic Di Tommaso), an unfortunate soul who died mysteriously after a rooftop foot chase over the film’s opening credits. Once an affluent art dealer, Fagin masterminds a plot to expose a high-profile art dealer, Dr. Crispin Losberne (David Walliams of “Stardust”), for the infamous criminal that he is. This requires Twist and company to steal a rare, 18th century Hogarth painting from an auction house in broad daylight.

Sadly, “Twist” amounts to little more than a low-stakes, by-the-numbers art heist, with the treacherous Sikes scheming not only to double-cross Fagin but also to put a bullet in Twist. Sikes is jealous with rage because her girlfriend Red is smitten by Twist’s disarming charm. Red took Twist without Sikes’ knowledge to skinny dip in a pool where Sikes and she often flirted.


Surprisingly, Owen and company neglect to flesh out the relationship between Twist & Red as a romantic subplot. Meantime, none of the thinly drawn characters display much charisma in this half-baked crime thriller. The most exciting scene occurs before the art heist when our heroes relieve the villain of his cell phone, clone it, and then scramble to return it before he realizes his loss.

The skeletal Owen, Collett, and Wrathall screenplay boasts neither ambiguity nor ingenuity, and the suspense generates few thrills. The cliffhanger confrontation near the end, with Twist clinging by his fingertips to the edge of a building, doesn’t stoke up any fears about our hero’s ability to survive. The only character who stands out in “Twist” is Lena Headey’s trigger-happy, homicidal Sikes. The highlight of the action is her fracas on the street with as many as six London policemen. Not even Michael Caine’s venerable presence can redeem this humdrum, second-rate pabulum. Altogether, “Twist” lacks enough action, intrigue, and romance to turn anybody on.

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