Starring: Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone, Stephen Graham, David Thewlis, jamie Campbell Bower, Eddie Marsan, Anna Friel

Director: William Monahan

Writer: William Monahan, Ken Bruen (novel)

Cinematography: Chris Menges

Original Score: Sergio Pizzorno

Running Time: 103 mins.

Given the high calibre, highly talented cast, Farrell, Knightley, Winstone, Thewlis, Friel. Marsan, and the credentials of it’s director/writer William Monaghan (he behind The Departed’s script) adapting a film based on an acclaimed novel by Ken Bruen, that London Boulevard would be a big release, raved about on the festival circuit, whispered for Oscar success even, but no it has slipped out barely unnoticed amidst a release heavy week full low-key Hollywood films, no press-screenings, no buzz, next to no publicity, nothing. All of which begs the question as to why? Why is such a film so full of potential dumped like an unloved pet into cinemas and sold as a sub-par British gangster film in the TV adverts, it would seem to me that this is a film that the studios just don’t know how to sell. Given Monagahn was behind The Departed they have tacked that angle on, it’s not a surprising move but it somewhat mis-sells London Boulevard as The Departed, but, you know, in London…

Suffice to say of all the things London Boulevard is, it isn’t anything like The Departed save for an organised crime element and the presence of Winstone (the mob boss here rather than the lackey), this is a film as much about the pressures of fame, obsession and honour (which is where the gangster element slips in). The poor treatment given to the film is something of a dis-service as it is undoubtedly not the easiest sell though neither is The American yet that has been released in the same week and hasn’t received nearly as short-shrift. Farrell is the star of the piece, both figuratively and literally speaking, carrying the weight of the plot well he uses his character, the reformed crim just out of prison, to mould a seemingly cool and calm individual into someone who is living on a knifes edge, the tension is palpable, he could snap at any time…and occasionally does, to deeply brutal effect.

This sporadic violence and a misjudged finale lends the film an air of Layer Cake, which is where the weaknesses shine through, the cliché’s are undoubtedly rife if you dig below the surface and one plot strand in particular irks somewhat in its attempts at giving Farrell’s character a father figure to avenge, it seems only to exist to give the film a “shocking” (read unnecessary) conclusion and final scene. Forget the weaknesses, and you will, for great acting can paper over many a crack. Opposite Farrell, Knightley in fantastic, vulnerable, disturbed and sympathetic, its the kind of turn that would usually elicit awards talk of the supporting kind, talking of which Thewlis is as great as ever, the guy can do quirky in his sleep but as a burnt out ex-child actor he has the films greatest line as well as sharing some dynamite scenes with Farrell, making perhaps the oddest mismatched pairing of the year, but also the most entertaining.

There are weak links in the performance chain, tellingly most of which concern the film’s more gangster-y element, Winstone is dependably menacing but nothing more while Ben Chaplin and the rest of the mob stereotypes run to the usual character descriptions, weasley, brutish, scouser, nasty teen’s concerned with knife crime etc. etc. Sadly at the end these elements come to the fore with what came before taking a back seat, something of a shame given such promise though the entertainment factor is never lost even amongst the cliché,apart from that final scene, thankfully the great 60’s soundtrack is always there to pep up proceedings a little providing class and a tone veering away from Lock, Stock-isms just enough.

VERDICT

London Boulevard is great, until it goes all gangster on you, Farrell puts in another sterling turn but ultimately this is a rather confused film that stuffs too much cliché amongst the good stuff.

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