The Con is On, 2018.
Directed by James Oakley.
Starring Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Maggie Q, Stephen Fry, Alice Eve, Sofia Vergara, and Crispin Glover.
In an effort to avoid paying off a massive gambling debt to a notorious mobster in England, a couple flees to Los Angeles and hatch a jewel theft plot.
Development hell is a term for a project – be it film, video game, television show, or pretty much anything – that remains in development for a long time, whether it’s in pre-production, or even films that started shooting and just never get released. Deadpool was in development for more than 10 years from the moment a production deal was announced to the release of the final film, as early as 2004 New Line Cinema attempted to make a Deadpool movie with Ryan Reynolds in the title role. Film fans rejoiced when earlier this year the first trailer for Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was released. Gilliam has tried to make the film since 1998 and even today it is in the middle of a legal dispute that threatens to delay or prevent the film’s release.
Why did I write all this? To say that Gilliam may have a masterpiece on his hands, there are some films that maybe should not see the light of day. One of these is The Con is On, originally supposed to get theatrically released in 2016 under the title The Brits are Coming.
This film is as star-studded as you can get. Directed and co-written by The Devil You Know’s James Oakley, The Con is On is a who’s who of indie actors. Uma Thurman stars as Harriet, a stylish British con artist who works with her drinking partner and husband, Peter (Tim Roth), who may just be the hardest drinker alive. The couple is on the run because of a huge debt they owe London criminal boss Irina (Maggie Q), who seems to be killing people every time she’s on screen. After an opening scene in London where Harriet takes a package of drugs from a nun (or a woman dressed as a nun), she and Peter travel to Lo Angeles, where they live care-free after Peter pretends to get hit by the valet at the parking stand. After a quick visit to their old friend Sidney (a delightfully entertaining Stephen Fry), a paedophile priest connected with everyone in the LA underworld. Somehow this leads to the couple getting involved in a scheme to steal a priceless jewel from Peter’s ex-wife Jackie (Alice Eve), and her abusive new fiancé, Gabriel (Crispin Glover).
On the positive side, while the characters are all over-the-top caper archetypes, the cast seems to be having the time of their lives. Tim Roth is trying his hardest to beat Gary Oldman’s nicotine poisoning in Darkest Hour by drinking ALL the martinis and straight vodkas in the world, to the point where it seems of if he doesn’t have a drink in his hand. He also shatters, drops, and otherwise breaks so many glasses I would not be surprised to hear their alcohol and glassware budget was comparable to the cocaine budget in Blues Brothers. Stephen Fry is a delight as usual, and he seems to be amused by all the other characters to really give a damn about the story.
Unfortunately, the fun promise of the first 15 minutes of the film never pays off once the plot starts getting complicated with the con from the title. The characters seem uninterested in what they are supposed to do, and it feels forced when they suddenly remember they should be doing something – though when you are having as much fun as Uma Thurman is with all her glamour and drinking, who can blame them?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Rafael Motamayor is a journalist and movie geek based in Norway. You can follow him on Twitter.