The glorious summer of 1997: a young Jarv had just returned from South Africa and was marking time before touring America. Britpop was still in its heyday, we’d booted out the corrupt and incompetent Tories and so optimism was in the air, the weather was fine and British film was in the midst of a minor Danny Boyle inspired revival with many a stomping film meeting both critical and commercial success.
Into the midst of all this stormed Twin Town- the film incorrectly billed as the Welsh Trainspotting, and the film that launched Rhys Ifans. In comparison to some of the films released that summer, it may be strange to pick this one out, but I genuinely believe that Twin Town is an underrated little film well worth a revival.
Sure, Twin Town isn’t the heroin crazed masterpiece that is Trainspotting, and it lacks the feel-good fuzziness of the critical and commercial juggernaut that was The Full Monty, but it is a gleeful, comic, anarchic tale that portrays Swansea as the disgusting and deprived urban landscape that it is. Whereas ‘Monty’ sweetened the pill of urban misery, Twin Town revels in the petty crime and squalor that defines its location.
Swansea (memorably described by Dougray Scott’s corrupt police officer Terry as a “pretty shitty city”) is the setting for Twin Town, but the events of the film themselves follow the Lewis “twins” (actually brothers), memorably portrayed by Rhys Ifans and Llyr Evans, and an escalating feud with local businessman/ low level gangster Bryn. What starts with an argument over compensation culminates in multiple murder and tragedy. In the meantime, the twins challenge each other to timed hits on a bong, engage in petty theft, joyriding and solvent abuse. It’s a pretty straightforward plot, and the fun of the film doesn’t come from the narrative.
Twin Town is a black comedy- and the Twins antics are gleefully anarchic comic moments. From stealing their probation officer’s car to ruining a karaoke competition by urinating on Bryn’s daughter, everything they get up to is a riotous comic cavalcade. Ifans and Evans seem to be really enjoying themselves, revelling in the low-life antics of the two central characters. Dougray Scott is slimily excellent as Terry, and never seen again Rachel Scorgie is also good as Adie, the Twins hooker sister. William Thomas is passable as Bryn, the only weak link in an otherwise excellent cast.
Half the fun of the film comes from the script, which delivers many a superb exchange between the characters and amps up the absurdity of the situation. Bryn and Terry’s exchange about drugs (where the wannabe gangster doesn’t know what “snow” is) is a case in point, but this is only one example in a film full of cracking lines. The characters are also well drawn, and thought has been put into the depiction of even minor characters such as Dai the Karaoke King, or Terry’s lovesick partner Greyo.
It’s little touches like Greyo grieving for Adie that give the film it’s heart. Furthermore, it’s a film that has been described as callous, but I don’t think that anyone can look at Fatty’s funereal scene at the end and describe such a touching moment as lacking heart. The Twins, last seen sailing for Morocco, are saddened and burnt out with righteous anger, but it’s unfair to disregard them as uncaring.
Overall, I heartily recommend Twin Town. It may be overlooked in terms of British films of the last twenty years, and it certainly isn’t as good as something like This is England, but it is a film that I come back to every now and again and enjoy anew. The pot and glue filled antics of the twins, and their absolutely effervescent outlook is simply never boring for me. Twin Town is a film that has unjustly dropped off the radar (along with Shallow Grave), and is a film who’s reputation could do with a shot in the arm. Sure, it may have cost next to nothing to make, but neither did any other British film of the period and it certainly doesn’t let the side down.
If you can get to see Twin Town, then I suggest that you do so, as it is a minor classic in severe danger of disappearing altogether. Feel good it is not, but it is a blackly comic and thoroughly enjoyable little slice of anarchy.