out of Five
Running time: 103
Disappointing, badly written and jarringly acted crime drama that gets bogged down in too many sub-plots and winds up as a compendium of tedious gangster movie clichés.
What's it all about?
Directed by William Monahan (who wrote The Departed), London Boulevard is based on the novel by Ken Bruen, which in turn is loosely based on Billy Wilder's classic Sunset Boulevard. Colin Farrell plays south London hard man Mitchell (no mention of his brothers Phil and Grant), who gets out of jail and accepts a job as bodyguard to reclusive Hollywood actress Charlotte (Keira Knightley), who has holed up in her Holland Park mansion in an attempt to avoid the paps.
Meanwhile, Mitchell tries to avoid getting sucked back into a life of crime via his twitchy friend Billy (a badly miscast Ben Chaplin) and powerful local crime boss Gant (Ray Winstone, of course), who seems obsessed with turning Mitchell back to the dark side. At the same time, Mitchell finds himself harassed by an equally obsessed cop (Eddie Marsan, looking like he'd turned up drunk to an audition for Life on Mars), while trying to protect his increasingly troubled sister Briony (Anna Friel) and also attempting to avenge the murder of his tramp friend.
The best things about the film are the (admittedly nonsensical) faux 60s stylings (the film is set in the present day, making Marsan's 70s reject cop even more ludicrous) and an amusing performance by David Thewlis, who's basically channeling Withnail as Charlotte's live-in confidante and gets all the best lines (“If it wasn't for Monica Bellucci, she'd be the most raped actress in European cinema”).
The film's biggest problem is the script, which leaps around from subplot to subplot as if there were five Mitchells instead of just one and yet still manages to drag. Secondly, any resonance with Wilder's Sunset Boulevard is immediately destroyed because Knightley's character is supposed to be much older (think Helen Mirren or Judi Dench).
The performances are all over the place too – Farrell seems oddly restrained (perhaps from trying to keep a lid on the accent), while Friel and Thewlis are both over the top, albeit enjoyably so. Similarly, Winstone is just reading from the Big Book Of Gangster Clichés while Knightley is fine but her character is completely inconsequential and it doesn't help that there's no chemistry between her and Farrell.
London Boulevard is a disappointing, derivative and frequently dull thriller that never really comes together.