Apparently when Suzie Halewood optioned the rights to the book Bol’she Ben by Pavel Tetersky and Sergei Sakin, all she knew about it was an article that she’d read in the Evening Standard. The book or journal was kind of a ‘Rough Guide’ to ripping people off in Britain and was written (in Russian) by two ‘Moscow scum’ who had illegally stayed in Britain so that they could scam enough cash to either get married or start a band.
In their guide, they apparently described themselves as pretty unlikeable and irredeemable lo-life drug addicts. In the film, the two main characters, Cobakka and Spiker, played by Brit Ben Barnes and the Russian Andrei Chadov, are pretty likeable and irredeemable lo-life drug addicts, and both actors convince in their roles.
(I heard that Ben was so committed to the role he was happy to use public transport to get to the film locations, hang out watching Russian dubbed movies and doss on peoples floors.)
The film is a drama with a lot of humour, and fizzes with energy. There’s a great scene where Cobakka (I think!) is comparing the different methods employed by law enforcement officials in London and Moscow when dealing with scammers. In London, over several months, you get a nice letter followed by another less nice letter, maybe followed by a polite knock on the door. In Moscow, a car screeches up, 5 cops get out, chase you, catch you and then beat the crap out of you.
Made, I believe, for around £200K, it did well in Russia, but has a very small and limited release in the UK.
Check it out. If not on the big screen then when it arrives on DVD.