Rancid Aluminium

UK 2000

Reviewed by Danny Leigh


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

London, the present. Pete Thompson enjoys a life of drug use and lethargy, until the death of his father leaves him in charge of the family publishing business. Eager to conceive with his girlfriend Sarah, he discovers his sperm count is low and begins a course of fertility treatment.

His best friend, company accountant Sean Deeny - who is irked at Pete's inheritance - plots a take-over of the company using borrowed funds from a Russian mafioso named Mr Kant. Pete has a brief fling with his secretary Charlie, then leaves for Germany with Deeny and Sarah to meet with Kant. There, he furtively sleeps with Kant's daughter Masha.

Pete returns to London, only to be summoned to Russia. Once in Russia, he sleeps with Masha again, before being shot by Kant as a warning to his other western debtors. Back in London, Pete returns alive - unbeknownst to Deeny, his execution by Kant was purely for show. Learning both Masha and Sarah are pregnant and realising what Deeny is up to, Pete enlists Masha to provide him with an alibi while he pursues his nemesis. Deeny kidnaps Sarah and Charlie. Pete confronts Deeny and kills him in a gunfight.


Rather as John Dahl's otherwise efficient melodrama Rounders was laid waste by the faux-Muscovite drawl of John Malkovich, it would be hard to discuss Rancid Aluminium without prior reference to Steven Berkoff and his Russian accent. Given little more than the constant repetition of one word, "business", on which to build his performance, the relish with which Berkoff savours its evolution - from the early "biznez" to a climactic "byeez-nyuzz" - soon consumes every soggy plot point debut feature director Edward Thomas (screenwriter of House of America) can muster. Indeed, the whole issue of inflection proves tricky; while the producers may have felt Rhys Ifans' Mockney yelp and Joseph Fiennes' Oirish-by-numbers turn lent the project a boisterous, cartoonish quality, they actually just make much of the film unintelligible.

All of which betrays a deeper flaw - the film's slapdash contempt for its audience. Just as Berkoff's loan shark Kant is an implausible caricature, the Russia he supposedly represents is simply a patch of wasteland populated by whores and balalaika players. Thomas ventured into Poland for location work, but what he returned with could easily have been filmed in Barking. London, meanwhile, is reduced to a couple of hastily composed shots of Big Ben and Notting Hill's Portobello Road, which only heighten the mystery of Ifans' gor-blimey cadence.

It would probably be unfair to hold the director solely responsible. Certainly, he does appear more comfortable fetishising his characters' lifestyle accoutrements (getting particularly excited when lingering over a long line of coke) than establishing dramatic tension or reining in his actors' self-indulgent performances. However, James Hawes' script, adapted from his own novel, is where the problems start.

Busy adorning the script with some of the most painfully self-conscious dialogue since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels ("I could feel 'er breff," Ifans mumbles, "across free fousaand miles of night,"), Hawes forgets to plug the narrative holes left by the absence of common sense. And even more fundamentally, why our sympathies should lie with the pampered offspring of a wealthy publisher whose time is spent cheating on his girlfriend remains an enigma throughout Rancid Aluminium. Neither, for that matter, does it ever become clear how a charmless fop like Pete Thompson manages to inflict his libido on so many women, or why the hitherto amoral Kant suddenly comes over all philanthropic and allows Thompson to waltz off without repaying a penny of his debts.

Sadly, all that's left is a shoddy exercise in laddish wish-fulfilment, where women are only good for child-bearing and - in a casually repellent motif Thomas likes so much he uses it twice - covering themselves in cum for their own machiavellian ends. Which, as a visual insignia for this ugly, sexist farrago, just about says it all.


Edward Thomas
Mike Parker
Mark Thomas
Polish Unit:
Teresa Dworzecka
James Hawes
Based on his own novel
Director of Photography
Tony Imi
Chris Lawrence
Production Designer
Hayden Pearce
John Hardy
©Entertainment Film Distributors Limited
Production Companies
Entertainment Film Distributors present a Mark Thomas/Fiction Factory production
Executive Producer
Nigel Green
James Hawes
Line Producers
Dic Jones
Polish Unit:
Miroslaw Warchol
Associate Producer
Chris Milburn
Production Co-ordinator
Tilly Creswell
Production Manager
Polish Unit:
Marcin Marcinkiewicz
Unit Managers
Gareth Skelding
Polish Unit:
Wieslaw Kardas
Location Managers
Dyfed Williams
Polish Unit:
Miroslawa Manko
Post-production Supervisor
Lionel Strutt
Assistant Directors
Harry Boyd
Chris Dando
Rhian Wyn-Jones
Joanna Crow
Polish Unit:
Andrzej Bednarski
Barbara Szyszko
Malgorzata Adamska
Script Supervisor
Pam Humphreys
Script Co-ordinator
Polish Unit:
Dorota Paczka
Camera Operators
Paul Godfrey
Polish Unit:
Andrzej Musial
Steadicam Operator
Paul Edwards
Special Effects Supervisors
Richard Reeve
Polish Unit:
Arkadiusz Rosczak
Polish Unit Designer
Jacek Osadowski
Art Director
Tom Pearce
Costume Designer
Jany Temime
Costume Supervisors
Stephanie Eatwell
Polish Unit:
Renata Wlasow
Meinir Jones-Lewis
Kathy Ducker
Polish Unit Supervisor:
Czeslawa Baldo
Men in White Coats
End Roller
Creative Partnership
Optical Effects
Score Recorder
Stewart Lucas
Score Mixer
Dai Shell
"Solomon Bites the Worm" by Adam Devlin, Edward Chester, Scott Morriss, Mark Morriss, performed by The Bluetones; "Motown Funk" by Ian Davenport, Andy Lovegrove, performed by Away Team; "Come Love Me" by Kristian Ottestad, performed by Getaway People; "Sentimental Song" by Richard Green, performed by Ultrasound; "Pumping on the Stereo" by Gareth Coombes, Michael Quinn, Daniel Goffey, Robert Joseph Coombes, performed by Supergrass; "Nightcrawler" by Adam Routh; "The Tunnel" by Ali Friend, David Ayers, Richard Thair, Byron Walker, performed by Red Snapper; "Gunfire" by Philly Collins, James Locke, Callum McNair, performed by Philly; "Strong" by Robbie Williams, Guy Chambers, performed by Robbie Williams; "To Earth with Love" by Cliff Jones, Nick Crowe, Nigel Hoyle, James Risebero, performed by Gay Dad; "Connection" by Justine Frischmann, performed by Elastica; "Survive" by David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels, performed by David Bowie
Sound Recording
Sandy MacRae
Supervising Sound Editor
Kevin Brazier
Dialogue Editor
Kallis Shamaris
Sound Effects Editors
Campbell Askew
Blair Jollands
John Fewell
Julie Ankerson
David Humphries
Trevor Swanscott
Robin Brazier
Alan Sallabank
Robert Thompson
Simon Day
Stunt Co-ordinators
Glenn Marks
Polish Unit:
Robert Brzezinski
Animal Handlers
Rockwood Animals on Film
Rhys Ifans
Pete Thompson
Joseph Fiennes
Sean Deeny
Tara Fitzgerald
Sadie Frost
Steven Berkoff
Mr Kant
Keith Allen
Dr Jones
Dani Behr
Andrew Howard
Nick Moran
Olegario Fedoro
Mr Kant's bodyguard
Barry Foster
Brian Hibbard
Steven Speirs
BMW man
Joshua Richards
police officer
Mariusz Czajka
Robert Brzezinski
Katarzyna Trzcinska
Ryszard Janikowski
Entertainment Film Distributors Ltd
8,211 feet
91 minutes 15 seconds
In Colour
Super 35 [2.35:1]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011