It's not unusual for people to remake classics by transporting them to the world of today. The novels of Jane Austen are popular fare. Charles Dickens' Great Expectations was last seen on the big screen in 1998. Now comes Twist, a thoroughly uncompelling transformation of Oliver Twist from the grimy streets of London to seedy streets of Monday day Montreal. Instead of a gang, Oliver becomes enmeshed with hustlers, other young runaways like himself with nowhere else to go. This is a promising idea, but in writer/director Jacob Tierney's (Dad) hands, nothing compelling happens. Twist is a little more than ninety minutes of near-boredom, as the audience and the characters wait for a coherent story that never develops.

Oliver (Joshua Close, Adam & Eve, K-19: The Widowmaker) is not even the main character. He rates nothing more than a barely sketched out secondary character, used mainly to give Dodge (Nick Stahl, T3: The Rise of the Machines, In the Bedroom) somebody to talk to, so that it is easier to advance what there is of the plot. Dodge is a hustler, and getting pretty sick of the life. He doesn't earn money anymore, which incurs the wrath of Fagin (Gary Farmer, Adaptation, Skins). Fagin lords over all the boys, who live together in a large room in what looks like a decrepit warehouse. Their only respite is Nancy (Michele-Barbara Pelletier, Papilon, Café Ole), the waitress at the local diner. Dodge sees Oliver, who just ran away, and recognizes fresh meat. He brings him to Fagin, who has Dodge train Oliver.

Not much else happens for the duration of the movie. The man behind the scenes, Bill, is never seen or heard. He is a dangerous presence lurking off to the side. Dodge and Fagin are both afraid of him. Nancy is seeing him, although he is abusive towards her. Oliver is attracted to Dodge, but Dodge wants nothing to do with this, not because of Oliver, but because of the potential consequences. The way that Tierney portrays Oliver is less than satisfying. He is a wimpy, waffling lost boy who flounders at every opportunity he can get. He has feelings of abandonment, so he latches on to anything that shows affection towards him, be it Dodge or a kind john.

The Dodge character has more depth, but not enough to hold anybody's interest. He hates himself and what he does. He wants to get away, but doesn't really see how he can accomplish this. It's a vicious circle for Dodge, who seems to have resigned himself to his fate, and therefore given up trying to pull tricks for money. Stahl still cannot come close to the psychotic performance he gave in Bully. There's a predictable subplot about a car that is following Dodge everywhere and giving him the creeps, and the eventual confrontation between Dodge and its occupant provides the only emotional resonance in Twist.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Not Rated but contains language, drug use, and sensuality, an easy R.

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