****The Sunday Times – Times Top 100 Films

Dark, funny, charming, fast, immoral, decadent and delightful, the writer and director Suzie Halewood’s film is a fresh blast of foul air. Not since the release of Trainspotting have we had such a daring and inventive look at contemporary lowlife. This is the story of two Russian immigrants, Spiker (Andrei Chadov) and Cobakka (Ben Barnes), who come to London hoping to make a fast and easy fortune, but turn to a life of crime. Their big dreams soon go up in a haze of drugs and disappointment. Here is a London we never see, w ith views of immigrants that are usually off limits. Chadov and Barnes are the best double-act buddies since Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.

 

****Time Out

Makes Dirty Pretty Things look like a government advisory documentary –streetsmart, non-PC and very funny.

 

**** London Lite

Halewood gives Barnes the sardonic narrative voice, which contributes to the film’s cohesive, documentary quality and ensures the pair remain a curiously likeable, if seldom respectable, force. Gruelling, ebony dark…wonderfully funny.

 

*** Evening Standard

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry as they forge work permits, steal mobile phones, filch from stores and smoke first dope and then crack. You laugh because Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia) and Andrei Chadov (a star in Russia) have enough charm to get away with being indolent rascals. It speaks the truth…entertaining and thought-provoking.

 

**** Film Four

Bum-fluffy and believable (Barnes’s accent outguns Viggo Mortensen’s methody efforts in Eastern Promises), there’s more than a little of the Borat about the pair’s howling racism and their deadpan dissection of British eccentricities.

Like Kazakhstan’s clodhopping ambassador, their cross-cultural comparisons are funny and illuminating. Their only method of comprehending Neighborhood Watch is by comparing it to Stalinist purges, and they quickly decide that UK-style prosecution (an angry letter) trumps its Moscow equivalent (being beaten by men with sticks).

As with most no-budget efforts there are some minor irritants…But none of these detract too heavily from this engaging piece, which offers a grimy little window on to Swinging London and smiles knowingly at what it sees.

 

*** Metro

Bigga Than Ben is the larky, bracing un-PC travel supplement

they don’t include in The Rough Guide…this London ‘aint no Narnia.

 

***Total Film

Honest, funny and provocative enough to wind up Daily Mail and Guardian readers alike.

 

*** Screen International

This fizzy, freewheeling comedy shows Barnes to be a charismatic screen presence. The subversive sting of Borat, bristling with energy and cheeky charm.

 

****Best of the Fest, Edinburgh Int’l Film Festival

Based on Bol’she Ben, the controversial, best-selling diaries of Pavel Tetersky & Sergei Sakin, Bigga than Ben follows the wild exploits of two freewheeling Russians, Spiker and Cobakka. Dodging the military draft, they decide to take their chances in Britain, embarking on a headlong charge through the seedy underworld of the multi cultural melting pot that is London. Shoplifting, bank fraud, cooking heroin and smoking crack are all amongst the specialist subjects, as this priceless, barbed satire delivers a comprehensive guide to screwing the system.

However, as their rollercoaster ride through the electric highs of the low life starts to slow down, things start to fall apart for our unlikely heroes. while major mainstream stardom beckons, here Barnes proves his mettle in a darker context. He commits a quietly dignified performance that subtly evolves in conjunction with the film, to eventually splinter free from the main relationship and claim centre stage. This relationship is obviously pivotal to the piece and Barnes’ natural interaction with co-star Andrei Chadov, who, along with his brother Aleksei (Nightwatch, Daywatch) is already a star in his native Russia, more than fulfills that remit, providing an endearing and enduring screen partnership on which to focus.

Shot on 16mm and independently produced, director S A Halewood’s enthusiastically subversive film is a brilliantly savage black comedy, bursting with raw energy, that cleverly reflects the journey of its protagonists via its changing styles and tones, its abrasive humour slowly dissolving to reveal its recognition of the cold, moral truth.

London, UK

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