"Fakers" is pleasant, passable entertainment, even if it's all too lightweight. It's a caper involving con men and art forgeries, and while its central concept is slick enough to win over fans of the genre, there's just so little to it that it almost instantly fades from memory. It's a film that goes through the motions - doublecrosses, switcheroos, a couple of close calls - but adds nothing else. It's paper thin.
Yet for most of the film, "paper thin" works. The adventure is barebones enough that the whole thing breezes by on charm and energy, a scant 85 minute run time not bothering with such things as elaboration. We're in, we're out, we get a nifty caper somewhere in the middle, and the sheer economy of it makes for enjoyable afternoon viewing.
The story finds young grifter wannabe Nick (Matthew Rhys) tangled up with an overdue debt to a local mob boss (Art Malik); Nick must pay £50,000 by the end of the week, or else he'll be dealing with the business end of a sledgehammer. Worse, the poor guy's on the outs with his girlfriend, Eve (Kate Ashfield). The only upside to his day is discovering an antique box that he presents to Eve's shy artist brother, Tony (Tom Chambers); it turns out the box used to belong to an Italian artist whose mysterious final sketch, never discovered, has become the stuff of legend among collectors. Guess what Tony and Nick find hidden in the box.
A quick appraisal reveals the sketch is worth £15,000 - not enough to get Nick out of his bind, but enough to kickstart a scheme: using the paper and pencils also found in the box, Tony will create five forgeries, and Nick, posing as a dealer, will sell one each to various galleries around London, skipping off with the dough before the gallery owners compare notes and realize they've been had.
It's here, in the middle of the film, where the story is the most dynamic. Nick races across town (sometimes literally: Eve drives a teeny electric car, and she plows it through tight alleys and marketplaces in an effort to beat the clock), and each dealer presents him with a new set of challenges. As with any good caper, our smooth criminals are constantly on the verge of getting nicked (no pun intended), and most of the fun comes in discovering how Nick manages to outwit his marks.
But, as with any caper flick, the con's not the whole story. The pre-caper setup feels a bit overlong, although it's treated with such quick-step gusto that we don't mind so much, as it always feels like it's leading somewhere good. The post-caper stuff, meanwhile, is riddled with so many formulaic plot turns that the surprises become too predictable. Rookie screenwriter Paul Gerstenberger lets the story run out of steam too early and eventually falls back on clichéd doublecrossings just to keep the story going. There's a who's-scamming-whom twist in the third act that never feels earned (it's difficult to believe one character pulling a switch like that), leaving the picture with a stale, by-the-numbers feel. (It's the same feel that keeps popping up every time the mob boss grants Nick one more chance. His final chance, the one that sets up the climax of the picture, is redundant enough that it almost renders the main caper moot.)
Despite all these story stumbles, we still walk away from "Fakers" with a bit of a smile. The performances are sharp and giddy enough to repeatedly win us over; it's obvious the cast is having a ball with the material, and their mood is infectious. Director Richard Janes keeps everything moving at a healthy clip, lending a jazzy, freewheeling style to the tale. The story itself is ultimately far too shallow, but as cotton candy entertainment, it tastes pretty sweet before it fades away.
Video & Audio
As discussed in the bonus material, "Fakers" was filmed using a process that allows Super 16mm film to capture an anamorphic image; after digitally editing, the final cut was then blown up to 35mm. This helps explain the abundant graininess on display in this transfer (presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen). In addition, the image is rather soft and the colors muted.
The stereo soundtrack is nothing fancy, with a solid mix keeping everything clear. No subtitles are offered.
A commentary track features Janes, Gerstenberger, Rhys, and Chambers. The group setting allows for plenty of chitchat, and the energy is high throughout.
EPK-style interviews are divided into three sections: cast (14:20), crew (12:01), and technical (9:00). Only the latter (which discusses the aforementioned 16mm anamorphic process as well as the creation of the retro title sequence) provides any real substance, with the rest being your standard flimsy on-set discussion.
Two trailers are presented: the original UK preview (1:58) and the US version (2:15).
A very short image gallery includes a handful of production photos of the cast. A "poster progression" gallery reveals the many stages of the film's poster design.
A set of previews for other Indican releases is included. Some of these trailers also play as the disc loads; you can skip past them if you choose.
A side quibble: The disc features a long animated menu, and every time you return to the main menu, this animation plays out in full. You can't skip over it, which makes disc navigation a bit of a chore.
"Fakers" is fun in the right spots, even if it doesn't give us anything new or exciting along the way. Anyone looking for a fluffy, forgettable little adventure to quench their caper flick jones will do fine to simply Rent It.