R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Richard Janes
scr Paul Gerstenberger
with Matthew Rhys, Kate Ashfield, Tom Chambers, Tony Haygarth, Art Malik, Jonjo O'Neill, Rula Lenska, Edward Hibbert, Paul Clayton, Larry Lamb, Stephen Greif, Felicite Du Jeu
release UK 5.Nov.04, US 18.Aug.06
04/UK 1h25

Is it real or not? Malik (right) tries to spot the fake

rhys ashfield malik
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fakers Yet another London caper comedy, this breezy little film at least achieves an amiable vibe through its combination of zany slapstick, corny romance and goofy characters.

Nick (Rhys) is a fast-talker in big trouble with a local crime boss (Malik); he has four days to come up with 50,000. Through a far-fetched series of coincidences, he ends up with a rare sketch, which he convinces his artist friend Tony (Chambers) to copy for two reasons: To make enough money from multiple sales to pay off the mobster ... and to get closer to Tony's barmaid sister Eve (Ashfield). Now it's a race against time to avoid discovery by the art dealers, pay off the mob and an increasing number of partners in crime, and stay clear of the cops.

Rhys is charming enough to hold this thin story together--he's a lovable lout operating just over the line of the law, and it's enjoyable watching his brain click into each new permutation of the increasingly complicated scam. But we never understand what he sees in the surly Eve. Ashfield plays her very well as a coldly calculating, stubborn woman with just a hint of softness. But she's not very likeable (she's not meant to be), and Nick's obsession with her is a bit trite. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast is great fun in a broad London crime movie sort of way--Malik revels in his comical brute role, while Lenska, Hibbert, et al, camp it up brilliantly as arrogant art dealers caught in the sting.

Director Janes clearly wants this to feel like a carefree 1960s caper movie--a tone established in the animated title sequence and then carried through the toothless violence, silly love story and wacky car chase through the streets (and markets) of London. Along the way, there are moments that are genuinely hilarious, suspenseful and dramatic (mostly in the strained friendship between Nick and Tony), but there's nothing remotely surprising here at all. It's simply a bunch of engaging characters caught up in a swindle they can't quite control. Enjoyable fluff, but nothing special.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 28.Jul.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall