Time Out‘s Dave Calhoun has sliced and diced William Monahan‘s London Boulevard, which opens in London this weekend. The London-based crime drama needs a stateside supporter but Collider‘s Steve Weintraub, who has seen and liked it (according to Weintraub’s 11.17 Monahan interview), is strangely silent. A man stands by his friends.
“Monahan draws on this big-name cast and employs superior talent behind the camera such as cinematographer Chris Menges, ” Calhoun says, “but still manages to serve up a tired, lifeless film which fails to realise either the style or sexiness it craves and which lacks any real sense of energy or momentum in its plotting.
“Although the film is contemporary, Monahan aims for a 1960s vibe, with vague nods to Performance in its crim-boho crossover, period songs on the soundtrack, including Bob Dylan and The Yardbirds, and a scene in which Farrell, in shirt and tie, drives an open-top classic car across Waterloo Bridge.
“Yet such stylings feel like add-ons to a by-the-numbers, staccato story.
“Monahan wheels out every Brit-gangster cliche in the book — Ray Winstone as a secretly gay, bookish hard man with a reserve of childhood trauma; Eddie Marsan as a cop stuck in the 1970s; Colin Farrell as a criminal who can’t escape his past; and Ben Chaplin as the hothead who’s got it coming. The film’s weakest element is the romance between Mitchell and Keira Knightley‘s Charlotte, which emerges from nowhere and is one of the dampest screen liasons in a long while.
“It doesn’t help that Farrell is handicapped not only with a character who doesn’t do emotions, but with his obvious discomfort at trying — and failing — to pull off a South London accent. Knightley, in turn, doesn’t have much to do but look harried, cross her arms a lot and, as expected, pout.
“Only the most forgiving fans of London crime movies will find much to enjoy beyond Menges’s nicely moody shots of London and a few amusing side players, and even Knightley’s loyal fans might tire after a few scenes of her faux-slobbish act as a celebrity in hiding. Husband-and-wife actors David Thewlis and Anna Friel are respectively wasted (in both senses) as Charlotte’s sole confidante and Mitchell’s wayward sister, but each must have had a word in the other’s ear as they play their roles for laughs and lighten their scenes by plumping for caricature.
“You start off strolling lazily down London Boulevard, but after 104 minutes you’re on your hands and knees begging for a passing cab to take you anywhere but this.”