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Swansea Song

Twin Town
Paul Chedlow

Shout About: Llyr Evans (left) and Rhys Ifans play brothers with no hope of escape in Kevin Allen's portrait of Welsh trailer trash.

The dismal coast of Wales is a dead end for the lowlifes in 'Twin Town'

By Richard von Busack

I ONCE TOOK a two-hour train ride to Swansea in Wales to see if there was a worse place than Culver City, where I grew up. East, west, home's best, is all I can say. The experience of crossing La Cienega bridge over the slime-choked Ballona Creek on foot during rush hour on a 95-degree smog-alert day does something to the soul. And yet the gloom of a Welsh Sunday--even if only experienced for a few hours on a return ticket--gets into your bones like malaria. Swansea, "the graveyard of ambition," as local hero Dylan Thomas called the now-moribund port town, is the setting for Twin Town, director Kevin Allen's story of South Wales' answer to Heckyl and Jeckyl, Julian (Llyr Evans) and Jeremy (Rhys Ifans).

The two lowlifes are hash-headed car thieves, true trailer trash who live wedged in a double-wide with their mom; dad Fatty (Huw Ceredig), an under-the-counter construction worker; and sister Adie (Rachel Scorgie), a receptionist at a massage parlor. This sordid but loving family is pitted against the local authority figures: a pair of corrupt cops and the big man in town, Bryn (William Thomas). When Fatty breaks his leg working on one of Bryn's jobs, guerrilla war breaks out between the Lewises and their oppressors.

Out of some sense of trans-Celtic pride, Danny Boyle (who directed that earlier and far superior Trainspotting) and Andrew MacDonald (Boyle's producer on that film) served as executive producers on Twin Town. Unsurprisingly, Twin Town has most of the elements of Trainspotting --minus the fine scripting. Here a character isn't just dead, he's "fucking dead as fuck." The accents are quasi-intelligible, and football arcana (mostly rugby, this time) is held up as a form of transcendence.

The spirited disgustingness of Twin Town does keep you watching, and the film is most enjoyable when it most resembles Pink Flamingos. Allen (who also co-wrote the script) has better luck wrangling the film from comedy to tragedy than he does moving it from tragedy to revenge melodrama. And the violent payoff is so repulsive that it destroys the film. Also, considering the sordidness everyone complains about, life in Swansea and the Mumbles, the nearby sea resort, looks absolutely palmy. Except for the trailer park everything looks green, homey and pleasant. Allen has, in short, little eye for local awfulness--Twin Town is evidence that Culver City is still worse.

Twin Town (Unrated; 100 min.), directed by Kevin Allen, written by Paul Durden and Allen, photographed by John Mathieson and starring Llyr Evans and Rhys Ifans.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro.

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