Saturday, November 19, 2011

London Boulevard (C+)

As a screenwriter, there's little denial that William Monahan has a clear skill for minting out cleverly written and well crafted scripts. Evidence for this couldn't be more apparent than his Oscar winning script for the 2006 film The Departed. Now however, he is ditching the crime-ridden streets of South Boston for the equally seedy London underground for his directorial debut London Boulevard. The film stars Colin Farrell as a former gangster trying to break clean from a crime infested past, Keira Knightley as the reclusive celebrity who may be his only shot at redemption, and Ray Winstone as the crime lord who won't let him get away easy. Sounds like a quirky yet slightly compelling story, right? Well, maybe.

Frankly there really isn't a "story" in this film. Instead, we as the audience are treated to a overwhelming glut of subplots mangled into one slightly cohesive whole, scored by a cool enough soundtrack of New Wave British Rock to make the whole mess seem intentional by way of Guy Ritchie's Snatch. Of the top of my head, I can count seven subplots found in the course of the film's 103-minute run time, and I think there might even be an eighth that I'm forgetting. Even if this ridiculous amount of plot-line clutter was intentionally meant to entertain and mildly confuse, it still manages to fail because of the tone of the film.

Despite the breezy opening credits promising fast-paced clever entertainment, after the thirty minute mark, every action or conversation becomes a matter of life and death in the eyes of the film's editors. Where Snatch succeeds where this film fails is that it never lingers on the nonsensical, let alone turn it into tragedy played straight. Because of the dooming combination of muddled plot and somber tone, the film becomes the very definition of the one adjective no film of any kind wants do be addressed as: Boring.

From around the thirty minute mark up until the final scenes, the film relies on never fully established relationships, gangster clich├ęs, and an incredibly cool soundtrack to masquerade as a second act. Unfortunately for the film, only one of these three end up succeeding (this film, if nothing else, has one incredible soundtrack). Collin Farrell fails to play his rehabilitated gangster with enough enthusiasm to make his character remotely interesting. What happened to the manic center-of-attention Farrell from this summer's Horrible Bosses, or even the loose cannon Farrell from Phone booth? Wherever any of these two alter egos of Collin Farrell are, they are no where to be found in this film.

As I near the end of this review, I realize that I had never formally answered the question found at the end of my opening paragraph. Is this a quirky and compelling story? Despite my vast criticisms for the film, I still have to answer with a "kind of". The first thirty or so minutes of the film is on par if not greater than most crime films I've seen, and if Monahan did one great thing with the script it'd be the dialogue, which zips along at a better pace than the film itself. Though I'm positive I've already brought it up about three times, there's no harm in complimenting the soundtrack once again. When the film gets into a slog, it's always there to give it just enough push to keep it moving. This film may be deeply flawed, but it's barely quirky and compelling to recommend. Barely.

Grade: C+


  1. I like how very simple you have your blog, and the title! Awesome review as well.