The post-Lock, Stock... British gangster movie goes round the u-bend in Spivs, a depressingly predictable conman caper. Ken Stott (TV's Messiah) stars as Jack, an ageing short-con artist who finds himself mixed up with some dodgy business involving human traffickers, the sex trade, and a pair of refugee kiddies. A conman drama that makes hard work of its sentimental plotline, it's the kind of nonsense only fools and horses will fall for.
It begins so well: Jack and his crew of scammers - played by Nick Moran (Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels), Kate Ashfield (Shaun Of The Dead), and Dominic Monaghan (The Lord Of The Rings) - set out on an oh-so-clever con to blag some stolen goods off the back of a lorry. Inviting us into the world of "marks", "convincers", and "moody money", the sparky script promises to be a British answer to Argentina's Nine Queens.
"SPIVS DESCENDS INTO MONOTONOUS MELODRAMA"
Then it all goes wrong: the conmen find themselves conned as the stolen cargo turns out to be a truckload of asylum seekers destined for the UK's sex trade. Meanwhile, Spivs itself descends into monotonous melodrama as Jack tries to reunite two orphan children with their long-lost sister. Anyone looking for an excuse to close their eyes and catch 40 winks won't require any sleeping pills.
There are some truly awkward moments, from Ashfield's unwise attempt to play a femme fatale (she virtually teeters on her high heels), to several unlikely action sequences featuring burly Russian mafia types. Worse still is the maudlin vein of sentimentality that's opened up as Jack reveals the heart of gold beneath his gruff Cockney exterior.
Director Colin Teague - who previously shot himself in the foot with another British gangster flick, Shooters - could do with moving on to pastures new. Come back Guy Ritchie - all is forgiven.
Spivs is released in UK cinemas on Friday 24th September 2004.