EIFF 2008 Review: Bigga than Ben: A Russians’ Guide to Ripping off London

22 Jun

Bigga than Ben

Picture the scene: Although out of a job, you don’t really fancy yourself as Russia’s next top army recruit so in an act of self proclaimed Moscow scumbaggery you and your best mate jump on a plane to the UK with just one thing in mind; royally ripping off London.

On arrival to foggy Albion, AKA the ‘armpit of the city’, you find yourself shacked up in not so much The Ritz but in someone’s garden shed – the logical starting point for any pair of bank scamming, benefit cheating debauchers.

That aside, the small fortune you set so boldly out to reap quickly begins to loom into focus making the possibility of a better life in Russia all the more attainable. That is until your best mate develops a taste for smack; as you do.

Combining dry wit with lashings of satire, writer/director Suzie Halewood transforms the real life diary extracts of two likely Russian lads, Spiker (Andrei Chadov) and Cobakka (Ben Barnes), deftly onto the big screen.

Undoubtedly in response to the growing ferment over immigration and terrorism in Britain, Halewood’s well rounded and ultimately likeable characters give face to those at the centre of such a debate in a way that is original and, at times, surprisingly compelling.

It’s Halewood’s observations into one of our nations most prided ethics – the assumption that everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise – that’s the most entertaining however as a gang of snarling, baton toting Russians are paralleled alongside a politely written letter when the two nations’ approaches to prosecution are explored.

In equally demanding roles, Barnes and Chadov are immaculate throughout and while the plot begins to wander towards its close, perhaps given a little to the characters real life fragmentation, a host of quirky graphics and a varied soundtrack ensure there’s plenty to keep audiences occupied. Definitely not to be missed.

Review by Mhairi MacLeod


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