Bigga Than Ben: A Russians' Guide to Ripping Off London
More good than bad in the story of two Russians more bad than good.
For once it's time for a Laaaahhh nnnndddddddda aaaahhhhhhnnnn based crime caper that can't also be described as cockney, largely because it's full of Russians. As more observant peeps will have noticed this from the subtitle, so I'll assume I'm not spoiling anything for you. Spiker (Andrei Chadov) and Cobakka (Ben Barnes) head to London to make their fortune, but soon realise that making a legit living in the city isn't particularly easy, especially for someone with no work permit or fixed abode.
Turning to the shady side of life under the tutelage of wideboy Artash (Ovidiu Matesan), the two take to shoplifting (from large chains only, of course. For moral reasons. Obviously.) and defrauding banks through cashing dodgy checks and the like. Daily Mail readers should rest assured however, as not once do they prevail upon the social security.
All of the above is presented in the manner of a cheeky chappie criminal caper movie ala Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, although things take a darker twist once Spiker decides that heroin would be a spiffing idea to escape his troubles. Like most junkies, he winds up a quivering mess which provides Cobakka with all of the motivation he needs to attempt to go straight.
Every time I sit down to write this review I want to say that the sudden chance in focus from bouncy, happy, amoral crime comedy to heavy handed "drugs are bad m'kay" obviousness is the main irritation with the film, and every time I have to stop myself. The shift in tone from dark comedy to dark... well, just dark, is reasonably gradual and as close to subtle as exists in this film full of crass acts and casual racism. The perception remains, I think, because while it's trying to be funny and enjoyable it largely works, and when it tries to be all serious it falls flat on it's face, so being the largely positive thinking, kind-hearted, magnanimous and humble guy that I am I choose to focus on those happier thoughts.
For most it's time with us, Bigga Than Ben is at the very least halfway decent. While it's not going to be winning any awards for originality, it's certainly funny enough to warrant it's existence for at least an hour of its life, and while the morality tale grafted onto the back end of it is trite and redundant, it's not bad enough to warrant walking out on it. The leads prove likeable enough to carry off the film despite their actions being designed to remove as much sympathy as possible from them.
It moves along speedily enough that it never seems to drag, and for the most part it's funny and enjoyable. It is hardly life changing stuff, and depth is pretty much a foreign concept to it, but this sentence does not seem to be focusing on those happy thoughts, so let's cut it short. Bigga Than Ben has enough merit to earn itself a recommendation, especially for those who have reached their limit of worthy dramas for the month.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.
Andrei Chadov (Spiker)
Ovidiu Matesan (Artash)
Andrew Byron (Sergei)
Jeff Mirza (Dennis)