Malice in Wonderland
dir Simon Fellows
scr Jayson Rothwell
prd Albert Martinez Martin, Mark Williams
with Maggie Grace, Danny Dyer, Matt King, Nathaniel Parker, Bronagh Gallagher, Anthony Higgins, Garrick Hagon, Pam Ferris, Paul Kaye, Dave Lynn, Christian Patterson, Steve Furst
release UK 4.Feb.10
09/UK 1h23
Malice in Wonderland
Through the looking glass: Dyer

grace ferris kaye
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Malice in Wonderland Packed with references to Lewis Carroll's classic, this modern-day London romp is extremely well-made and nicely played by the strong cast. On the other hand, the British crime genre is more than a little tired by now.

Alice is a young woman (Grace) running from a couple of thugs when she's hit by a cab driven by Whitey (Dyer). She can't remember who she is, so he takes her along to meet the gangster Gonzo (King). Then Whitey learns that her wealthy dad (Hagon) is offering a $10 million reward for her return. And as Alice travels around London following clues to her identity, she meets a variety of eccentric characters. Ultimately, Whitey and Alice converge on a nightclub run by the mob boss Harry (Parker).

The filmmakers develop a lively atmosphere that races through the story as everyone tries to figure out how they can get their hands on that ransom money, while Whitey's only concern is to keep Alice safe. The problem is that all of the genre touches (both crime caper and romantic comedy) make it fairly predictable, even when events take rather nutty turns. So much of the fun to be had is in the visual inventiveness and all of the Alice in Wonderland references.

Certainly, the film looks whizzy and fun, with lush widescreen cinematography, colourfully lurid effects and an increasingly stylised, surreal style that blends Las Vegas with East London. Sometimes this feels somewhat forced--wackiness for wackiness' sake--but it's still fun to watch. On the other hand, Whitey's to-camera chatter gets rather annoying, as does dialog that's delivered like beat poetry. And one obnoxious time-shift plot point stretches our good will to the breaking point.

Still, this is impressively confident filmmaking, with some strong characters emerging from the general mayhem. The plot's anecdotal structure links together a series of outrageous mini-adventures in some visually stunning locations populated by lively characters. And a few garish performances (including juicy cameos from the likes of Ferris, Kaye and Lynn) only add to the film's witty design and chaotic tone.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, innuendo 24.Jan.10

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