Bigga Than Ben: A Russians’ Guide To Ripping Off London

Bigga Than Ben: A Russians’ Guide To Ripping Off London

**

Reviewed by: Chris

Bigga Than Ben kicked off well and had me in stitches. Described as: “A true story about two pieces of Moscow Scum”, the film follows draft-dodging Spiker and Cobakka hitting London as a haven for fraudsters where they will get rich and enjoy capitalist heaven.

The Brits can be annoyingly pernickety about ID and other bureaucratic niceties, so these two baseball-hatted Russian punks engage various dodgy characters to fast-track them into beating the system. Cheque book scams require a bank account. Bank accounts require proof of income and utility bills. Utility bills require an address that isn't a shed, and so on. The crooked son of a millionaire shows them the ropes of basic shoplifting and petty theft from old ladies. He also uses some letraset so they have basic documents – for which he charges only 50 per cent of all income.

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There’s lots of hilarious (but not overly offensive) racial stereotyping as Spiker and Cobakka practice their new skills with more gusto than dexterity. Taken for terrorists or muggers as they try to ‘help people with shopping bags’ and ending up with only a packet of envelopes when they rob a local store, they take offence over the wrong things and show strong Russian spirit in the face of perceived aggression (unless the other guy is bigger).

The gags fall fast and free, with inventive cinematic touches as they explain things to camera or press a ‘subtitles’ button for an Irishman’s incomprehensible English. Spiker and Cobakka have confiscated shoplifting goods returned to them by a middle-eastern grocer who feels sorry for them, and their own accents recall ‘Kazakhstan’. It’s all very Borat and, although the original story must have had room for being a major hit, Sacha Baron Cohen it isn’t.

What is worse, it seems to start running out of material halfway through. A ‘step-by-step instruction on how to cook heroin’ is not as funny as it should be. The film starts to take itself a bit too seriously as we are invited to feel sorry for these... erm ... pieces of Moscow Scum. It’s a commendable effort, and a tantalisingly seductive look at London’s underbelly from the hygienic comfort of legitimacy. But Bigga Than Ben never quite scales the indie heights we would so like to see it conquer. Endearing, if not quite big enough.

Reviewed on: 26 Jun 2008
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Two sneaky young Russians dodge the military draft and head for London, all the while figuring out the best means for screwing their respective systems.
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