Misconceived at almost every level, “Rancid Aluminium” is a cheesy comedy-thriller that’s neither comic nor thrilling, even when it’s not being embarrassingly inept. Toplining some of Blighty’s young new elite, most of whom are either miscast or struggling with a desperately unfunny script, pic has “fast trip to half-inch” written all over it.
Though not mentioned on the print, the movie is adapted from young writer James Hawes’ disappointing second novel of the same name, a wild-ride portrait of a guy in his thirties who’s obsessed by infertility and relationship problems and who becomes caught up with the Russian Mafia and U.K. and U.S. intelligence agents. Taking both a screenplay and a co-producer credit, Hawes has junked the espionage aspect and concentrated on the rest. The best that can be said for the finished product is that it replicates some of the novel’s every-which-way “structure.”
Welsh thesp Rhys Ifans (“Notting Hill”) is in relatively restrained mode as Pete, who is incapable of impregnating his over-sexed partner, Sarah (Sadie Frost). He inherits his father’s publishing company, finding it mired in colossal tax debt. His best friend and fellow coke-snorter, Irish accountant Sean (Joseph Fiennes), suggests the way out of the problem is a loan from some shady Russos, led by the psychopathic Mr. Kant (Stephen Berkoff) and his femme fatale daughter, Masha (Tara Fitzgerald).
First third, which tries to engage the viewer with Pete’s plight, drags interminably, with inept attempts at a kind of scatterbrained humor (much talk of the protag taking zinc for his low sperm count) and with Pete’s voiceover doing little to sort out the chaotic editing. When Pete finally agrees to meet the Russians, pic spins off into a wannabe joke thriller, with Masha seducing him, Sean double-crossing him and Sarah whining relentlessly.
Top-billed Fiennes does a faultless impersonation of Stuart Townsend’s Irish gangster in “Resurrection Man,” but its comedic potential is wasted by the lame script. Ifans is OK but needs stronger writing and direction if he’s to rise from character to leading roles. As the shifty Slavs, Berkoff and Fitzgerald simply overact, with the latter changing her accent at least three times. Frost is as vanilla as ever.
First-time helming by playwright and legit director Ed Thomas (of the Welsh artistic group Fiction Factory) is functional at best, with no sense of overall visual style beyond occasional lighting effects by d.p. Tony Imi. Shot in Wales, London and Poland in winter 1998-99, pic shows signs of late trimming in its brief 87-minute running time. Title refers to something that tastes like “less than nothing.”