Today: July 22, 2024
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All Things To All Men

Returning to London, cool, taciturn, professional thief Riley (TobyStephens) aims to pull a few scores and settle a few more.  His last big job ended with the death of his brother and now he’s out for revenge.  When his friend and fence is brutally murdered after a diamond heist, Riley finds himself forced to deal with crime boss Corso (Gabriel Byrne) who makes him an offer he can’t refuse; a one-off multi-million pound burglary.  But Corso is being manipulated, setting Riley up for dodgy, corrupt cop Parker (Rufus Sewell) who has his own very personal agenda.  As cross follows double-cross and the complications start to pile up, Riley finds himself betrayed, forced to fight for survival in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse.

Written and directed by Kidulthood producer George Isaac, it’s somehow entirely fitting that central to All Things To All Men is Toby Stephens’ cool-as-a-cucumber thief committing a multi-million pound robbery as Isaac appears to have done exactly the same, boosting dialogue, characters, scenarios and entire scenes from every crime thriller he’s ever seen.  All Things To All Men isn’t just a derivative homage; it’s daylight robbery!  We’ve got a loner thief with his own moral code (Michael Mann’s Thief) out for revenge (Point Blank, Payback, The Outfit) on the gangsters who killed his brother, being set up by a maverick dirty cop with money worries (Training Day) in a scenario borrowed from Walter Hill’s The Driver, who’s breaking in a naïve, by-the-book rookie (Takeshi Kitano’s Violent Cop, William Friedkin’s To Live And Die In L.A.) who’s unhappy with the methods it takes to get the job done.  There’s a dialogue-free heist scene directly purloined from Thief, a gun purchase in an anonymous hotel room that apes the one in Taxi Driver, a meeting in the Grosvenor tea room that echoesSexy Beast (with not nearly so much sense of threat), a couple of twisty betrayals trousered from L.A. Confidential (including the bare-faced heist of the Rollo Tomassi plot-device) and a climactic Mexican stand-off that feels like it wandered in from half a dozen crime flicks before a final nod to Violent Cop and the credits roll.

Which isn’t to say All Things To All Men is bad; it’s not.  It’s just not very good; a middle-of-the-road time waster.  The fault for that doesn’t lie with director/producer Isaac, who’s delivered a handsome, glossy, good-looking, mechanically efficient little thriller on a tight budget, but with screenwriter Isaac who’s a derivative magpie, a hack nicking all his favourite bits from better movies, cutting and pasting them into his own script.  Come on George, you’re not just dishing up moronic crap like The Fall Of The Essex Boys for undiscerning mouth-breathers nostalgic for the heady, E and coke-fuelled hooliganism of their youth.  You’re too good a filmmaker for that.  Did you really think no one would notice you just lifted the safecracking scene from Thief?  Or the Rollo Tomassi twist from L.A. Confidential?  We’ve all watched the same films as you.

Where the film excels is in its top drawer cast.  Stephens acquits himself admirably as the cool thief doing one last job, Byrne and Julian Sands bring a faded authority to their aging gangster roles and it’s always good to see Green Street’sLeo Gregory even if he does feel just that little bit too old now to be playing the young rookie cop.  James Frain andDavid Schofield turn up as duplicitous police Mandarins, subtly pulling strings behind the scenes, but it’s Rufus Sewell as dodgy copper Parker who fascinates.  The angelic beauty of his youth now grizzled by middle age and disappointment, Sewell has lost none of his charisma and makes a perfect film noir antihero.

While it’s still better than Danny Boyle’s excruciating Trance, All Things To All Men winds up being less than the sum of its parts and, crucially for a thriller, fails to thrill.  Here’s hoping Isaac hires a better screenwriter for his next outing.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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