Twist (2003)

"Weak"

Twist (2003) Review


What would happen if you reimagined Dickens' Oliver Twist as a tale of modern-day teen hustlers cruising the nasty streets of Toronto? Twist sets out to answer this question, not that anyone was asking. In fact, Gus Van Sant already answered the question back in 1991 with My Own Private Idaho. Twist walks similar streets but in a tedious way that focuses more on beatings and squalor than on the emotional lives of its characters.

It's down at the donut shop that young Oliver (Joshua Close), a runaway who has grown up in foster homes, meets Dodge (Nick Stahl), a streetwise, hollow-eyed hustler who's always on the lookout for new recruits to present to the local pimp, Fagin (Gary Farmer). The thoroughly unpleasant Fagin, who usually greets his charges with a punch in the face when they return to the ratty hustler rooming house he runs, quickly brings the nervous Oliver into the fold. The only ray of light in this ugly world is Nancy (Michele-Barbara Pelletier), a friendly diner waitress who also happens to be the girlfriend of the unseen Bill Sykes, the terrifying mastermind who apparently controls the entire Toronto underworld, Fagin included.

Let the hustling begin. On chilly nights, the gang hangs on dark street corners leaning into car windows as johns cruise by. Oliver has the good luck to entice a senator who would rather talk than fool around, while Dodge, whose heroin addiction is making him sicker and sicker, mainly just gets beaten up a lot.

So that's 20 minutes. What is writer/director Jacob Tierney going to do with the next 70? Not a heck of a lot, as it turns out. There's more hustling, more heroin, more beatings, more cups of coffee down at the diner. The situation shakes up a bit when Dodge's straight-laced brother shows up to condemn him, an encounter that could be interesting but instead turns shockingly and unnecessarily obscene when, in exchange for money, Dodge agrees to his brother's demand that he demonstrate what he does for a living right there, right now, on his brother. My memory may be a little vague on this one, but I don't recall any incest scenes in the original Oliver Twist. Blimey!

Nick Stahl provides the druggy angst necessary for his role, and Joshua Close is appropriately wide-eyed and appalled as he learns the tricks of the trade, so to speak. But as Twist slowly makes its way toward its inevitable blood-soaked conclusion, it never grabs you by the throat the way such a darkly themed movie should. Maybe it's just that the Dickens overlay is too contrived. Maybe it's that Toronto isn't scary enough. Whatever the case, Twist doesn't engage. When you see it standing on the corner, you may as well drive on by.



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