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Fakers (2004)

Faking it has never been so good.

Directed by:

Richard Janes

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 86 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

Country: United Kingdom

If small-time con artist Nick Edwards (Matthew Rhys) does not come up with the £50,000 he owes to slick crimelord Foster Wright (Art Malik) by Friday, Foster’s men are going to get artistic on him with a sledgehammer. Fortunately Nick has stumbled upon a legendary lost work by small-time turn-of-the-century sketch artist Antonio Fraccini (Bruno Castra) – and although it is only worth about £15,000, Nick plans, with the help of cynical Eve (Kate Ashfield), her artist brother Tony (Tom Chambers), and a well-informed cleaner called Phil (Tony Haygarth), to sell forged copies of it to five different London art dealers in such rapid succession that they will not have time to realise that there is more than one sketch in circulation.

Crammed into the relatively short duration of ‘Fakers’ are several chase sequences, multiple confidence tricks, flashbacks to 1911 Sicily, a courtroom drama, and recurrent discourse on the nature of art and fakery – and its smartly animated credit sequence, plus a furious dash on (and off) London’s streets in a Smart car, openly acknowledge a debt to the kind of 1960s comedy crime caper typified by ‘The Pink Panther’ and The Italian Job. Yet despite such large ambitions, the relatively low-value artwork being pursued and copied by these consistently small-time characters reflects narrow horizons less suited to the big than to the small screen. From Nick’s opening lines about the previous night’s episodes of ‘Friends’ and ‘ER’, to his comment, as he sets out to impersonate an attorney-at-law, “I’ve seen ‘Ally McBeal’, so how hard can it be?”, the model which inspires this film is clearly televisual – and viewers who expect larger-than-life scams and widescreen pyrotechnics (as in the recent remake of The Italian Job) are likely to be left feeling short-changed.

The limited scope of ‘Fakers’ can be explained by its restricted budget (which may well have been less than the average episode of ‘Ally McBeal’) – but the film has other problems which are not so easily excused. For a start, Nick learns he must pay his debts, meets an accomplished art copyist, and unwittingly purchases a valuable artwork (which has somehow escaped the notice of an antiques dealer) ALL ON THE SAME DAY – a sequence of unmotivated coincidences which would fail to convince even the most undiscriminating critic of the plot’s artistic plausibility. Undue weight is placed upon Tony’s struggle to get the sketches done in time (which has all the dramatic impact of watching paint drying), while the sequence in which the galleries are bamboozled one after the other is underwritten, so that the task appears far too unchallenging to grip the viewer’s attention – and the climactic scene, in which Nick’s life depends upon the judgements of an art expert, is played out so crustily as to strip it of all the tension that a finale requires to be memorable.

In short, while ‘Fakers’ is charming enough as a minor work, it hardly passes muster as even a counterfeit imitation of high art.

It's Got: Scams, chases, and the nice observation that even a minor work can increase in value if associated with the notoriety of a crime.

It Needs: To focus more on the crime caper, and less on the interminable debates about whether Tony will or will not produce the requisite number of copies in time.

Summary

Low-budget artworld scam film that does not come close to passing off as any of the comedy crime capers it imitates.

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