13 and 1/2 months ago I wrote that “something’s wrong, it appears, with William Monahan‘s London Boulevard, a Graham King-funded crime drama which finished principal in August ’09 and has long been presumed/rumored to be a fall 2010 release. That seems unlikely at this stage.” It did open in England in late November of last year, but it got killed by most critics, earning a 32% rating.
I speculated in my piece that “Monahan’s superb screenwriting talent” — his script for Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed won an Oscar — “hasn’t fully translated over to directing, and that his inexperience combined with anal tendencies caused problems on the set (or so says a London source), and that reactions to the unfinished film were such that extra shooting was deemed necesssary (ditto), and that King has decided to pull the plug on 2010…and punt instead for 2011.”
The film is a London-based crime drama about an ex-con named Mitchel (Colin Farrell), just out of the slammer, who’s trying to go straight but “the gang won’t let him,” etc. (That cliche really is the basic plot.) He lucks into a job as a combination handyman and security guard for Charlotte (Keira Knightley), an actress who’s fallen into a odd kind of career slumber, and of course falls in love with her, and she him. All the while running more and more afoul of some Mr. Big gangster prick (Ray Winstone).
Costars include David Thewlis ( as a kind of Max von Mayerling character), Anna Friel, Ophelia Lovibond, Ben Chaplin, Sanjeev Baskhar and Jamie Campbell Bower.
I saw it last night and whoo, boy. There’s plenty of time to run a review, but I certainly saw what the problem was soon enough. Monahan is more concerned with style than story, it feels oddly misshapen and off-balance at times, the color looks oddly washed out, Monahan uses The Yardbird’s “Heartful of Soul” on the soundtrack three times, and the film devolves into a bloody body-drop festival about halfway through and — this is telling — Monahan casts himself (or someone who looks an awful lot like him) as a Knightley-stalking paparazzo who stares but never shoots.
The odd thing is that the script, which I read during the summer of 2010, read like “a sturdy, character-based, unhurried crime drama mixed with romance and hints of dark poetry. Well-sculpted dialogue, sprinklings of echo and nuance and melancholy, a little touch of Mona Lisa in the night.” Any good script can be fucked up in the shooting.
“They did some extra shooting in London between [in the summer of 2010],” a London guy told me. “They also did very brief additional shooting in L.A. with, I believe, a stand-in for Keira Knightley. You’ve read the script so you know that it’s a back shot of KK’s character standing, if I remember correctly, of the balcony of the Chateau Marmont.
“I did hear there were a lot of problems during the shoot and that Monahan was beyond paranoid, involving himself in every single aspect of filming, which, of course, meant that shooting took forever.”