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Rough 'n' Tumble Comedy in 'Twin Town'

May 16, 1997|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Since Welsh films surface on the average of once a decade, you hope that when one pops up it's an occasion to cheer. While "Twin Town" reveals first-time director and co-writer Kevin Allen a go-for-broke talent with a wild and woolly sensibility, his comedy turns so savage that it's difficult to keep on laughing after an engagingly rowdy start. You don't have to be of Welsh descent to be disappointed in "Twin Town," but it makes it worse if you are.

Dylan Thomas once wrote that "Swansea is the graveyard of ambition," to which the old Welsh seaport city fathers replied, "Ambition is critical"--spelled out in brass letters embedded in a granite step in the heart of town. It's an admonition spurned exuberantly by the glue-sniffing, car-"borrowing" Lewis twins, Julian (Llyr Evans) and Jeremy (Rhys Ifans), the spindly slacker sons of Fatty Lewis (Huw Ceredig), a bearded, beefy construction worker.

When Fatty complains of cutting corners in a roofing job, he's firmly reminded by his employer Bryn Cartwright (William Thomas), a businessman as successful as he is shady, just who's the boss. When, moments later, Fatty tumbles off a ladder and winds up with a broken leg, he finds himself all of a sudden regarded an independent contractor by Cartwright.

*

You wouldn't think that Julian and Jeremy would have enough brains between them to know how to go after Cartwright when he flat-out refuses any financial aid whatsoever to their father, but they prove to be a fearless and sometimes imaginative team. It's hilarious when they manage to drop their trousers--and more--on the very disco stage where Cartwright's pretty daughter expects to win the karaoke semifinals to the tune of "I Will Survive"--her father having greased the right palms.

But the skirmishing between the twins and Cartwright and his two key henchman, a pair of corrupt cops, Greyo (Dorien Thomas) and Terry (Dougray Scott), escalates brutally, with the smiles swiftly starting to freeze on your face. Allen's capacity for affection for rambunctious, thumb-your-nose blue-collar guys is equaled by his nonchalant acceptance of how shockingly lethal human nature can be. He goes so far with violence, it's hard for him to be funny; as a comedy, "Twin Town" is way beyond dark.

Before the film turns so grim, there are lots of raunchy laughs generated by a large and uninhibited cast. Amusingly, the twins' sister (Rachel Scorgie) works as a receptionist at a seedy massage parlor her mother insists on calling an "executive health spa." Allen may suggest that anything goes in Swansea, but it certainly looks to be an inviting place.

* Unrated. Times guidelines: The film's language is exceptionally strong, there is some sex and nudity and strong violence.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

'Twin Town'

Llyr Evans: Julian Lewis

Rhys Ifans: Jeremy Lewis

William Thomas: Bryn Cartwright

Huw Ceredig: Fatty Lewis

A Gramercy Pictures release of Poly/Gram Films production. Director Kevin Allen. Producer Peter McAleese. Executive producers Andrew MacDonald, Danny Boyle. Screenplay by Allen and Paul Durden. Cinematographer John Mathieson. Editor Oral Norrie Ottey. Costumes Rachel Fleming. Music MarK Thomas. Production designer Pat Campbell. Art director Jean Kerr. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

* Exclusively at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 848-3500, and the Town 4, Bristol and Sunflower, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, (714) 546-2711.

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