Director: William Monahan
Freshly released from Pentonville prison and determined not to return to his criminal past, Mitchell finds work as a minder for reclusive movie star Charlotte, with whom he develops a relationship. However, old friends embroil Mitchell in the plans of East End crime boss Gant and Mitchell is forced to confront him.
I have a very low tolerance for British gangster movies. There’s only a handful that have ever really engaged me. The Long Good Friday, Sexy Beast and Get Carter rank among those few. London Boulevard, unfortunately, doesn’t. Which is a shame because, with a cast like this, it should have had something going for it.
Based on the novel by Ken Bruen, London Boulevard is the directorial debut of screenwriter William Monahan, who penned the excellent The Departed for Martin Scorsese. And while I’m very much looking forward to Monahan’s recently announced Becket, it’s not down to any overwhelming promise on display here.
I’ve never been one to condemn a movie simply because it doesn’t have a particularly original storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the most unoriginal movies of the last year. But when you’re churning out yet another criminal-trying-to-go-straight-but-unable-to-escape-his-past tale, you have to bring something extra to the table and this movie just doesn’t do that.
Colin Farrell, who usually brings an abundance of personality to his roles, struggles to imbue Mitch with anything remotely approaching character. But that may be because he’s having so much trouble nailing the London accent. Instead, Mitch is one of those protagonists that leave you rather cold. Noble as his attempts at redemption may be, you never really care if he achieves it or not. He’s just the wrong side of being a dick to really care about.
Knightly seems equally adrift in a role which gives her little to do except look miserable and offer pouty looks to Farrell, who returns the favour by raising his eyebrows a bit. The chemistry between the two is non-existent and the development of their relationship is hurried, clumsy and far too restricted by the need to proceed to the next tough-guy scene.
Enter Ray Winstone as sinister, powerful psychopath Gant. Entertaining as his scenes are, this is the kind of role that Winstone can do in his sleep. And sometimes he looks and sounds like he might be doing just that. Maybe he’s just as bored as we are. In a movie crammed with completely unsympathetic characters, at least Gant is supposed to be.
The only actor who really engages is David Thewlis as the wasted, acerbic and surprisingly violent actor Jordan. His is a character that truly surprises, the only one in the movie that does, and the film sparkles just a little whenever he is on screen. Sadly, he’s not on screen long enough to rescue London Boulevard from being just another boring British gangster movie filled with another group of boring characters.
Still, it does have a good soundtrack.