Max And Ivan Are... Con Artists

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

In a spoof that’s not so much Ocean’s Eleven as Ocean’s Two, Max And Ivan recreate a $38billion heist movie on a budget closer to $38. That requires plenty of theatrical invention, and a nimble-footed approach to characters – a challenge which the energetic duo more than match, to create an entertaining romp through the genre.

The script is not big on surprises, it’s almost a by-the-numbers pastiche, and the jokes come out from ridiculously exaggerated parody rather than anything too unexpected. But the verve with which the duo front this out is a potent thing, and the result is an ribald hour of broad entertainment.

Cockney criminal mastermind Jim is putting the old gang together again for one last job (obviously). So he tracks down the likes of a hardcore Argentine action duo with an unresolved fraternal tension; the Lady Penelope-like hacker Lavinia who ‘completed the internet on its hardest setting’; the drunken deranged genius The Architect and an uber-camp cat burglar called Graham, now pursuing a career in human resources. They all agree, and gather for a very convoluted briefing – during which Jim, for very practical reasons, agrees that the best course of action is that they never again gather in one place, but pair off instead.

Their target is evil Russian oligarch Demetri’s new Vegas casino. Can they fight off the army of robot guards, evade the security laser detectors, and empty the vault? Or, even more difficult, maintain their cod accents as the fast-cut scenes require?

Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez have the required lightness of touch; struggling to hold back the corpsing and ploughing on despite the ridiculous suggestions for plot points suggested by their audience patsy, that adds a little dash of the unexpected into their tightly-scripted show.

The story is pacy and packed with story, thanks to scenes that can be over in the blink of an eye, such as the fragmented flashbacks to a disastrous earlier job in Monaco, or the two-headed monster Demetri keeps in the basement. This creation evokes the Pajama Men – as indeed does much of the hour – with its multiple characters and simple set of two chairs side-by-side.

It’s a comparison in which Max & Ivan will inevitably come off second-best, as they don’t have the strong leftfield sensibilities of the Americans to throw the narrative into an unexpected direction. But Con Artists is nonetheless a good-old fashioned romp that snares a healthy haul of good-natured fun.

Review date: 16 Oct 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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