|A goddamn disappointment|
Of the movies I have seen many have made me laugh. Others have made me tremble with excitement. A few have made me cry. And some just want to make me scream abuse at the screen. London Boulevard is in that last bracket, making me angry, and not just because it’s bad. The rage mainly comes from watching something with real potential decide to throw it all away.
London Boulevard is a story about the doings of an ex-con called Mitchell (Colin Farrell, minus great Irish accent, plus bad London accent). After getting out of prison he is looking to leave the gangster life behind. As such he gets involved with a reclusive actress, Charlotte (Keira Knightley), as some sort of odd job man (though he never actually takes on the job for some unexplained reason, which begs the question of how he still manages to hang around her house) and Jordan (David Thewlis) who is there because…he’s Charlotte’s friend? That never got well explained either. On the other side of things, Mitchell gets sucked into the shady network of a crime boss (Ray Winstone) through the medium of his dodgy friend Billy (Ben Chaplin). As the story winds out Mitch tries his best to be good but it all goes a bit tits-up towards the end, when the violence happens.
This is a major problem as it means the film focuses more on the dark gangstery bits than on those events surrounding Charlotte. This is a poor choice of focus as the latter comprises the best sections of the movie. Knightley acts the part of Charlotte excellently and the film brilliantly conveys how besieged she is by the attention of media and public. There is one scene where she tries to carry out a simple errand, only to be forced into retreat by the staring of the masses. Even in the audience you can feel the horrible weight of their gazes. Further sympathy is gained through her bitter comments about the place of women in cinema. Her point, that women seem to exist in film solely for their relationship with the male lead, has a lot of relevance, even if her eventual role in the film makes what she says unfortunately ironic. Thewlis as Jordan is a less weighty but just as entertaining performance, appearing a wastrel but possessing a respect-generating steely core and delivering his lines with an engaging dry humour.
These two are a direct contrast in quality with the main people on the other side of Mitchell’s life. The character of Billy is a non-entity, not worth sympathy and barely worth contempt. Winstone as crime boss Gant is a caricature, a villain from a Guy Ritchie flick come into a movie which is too serious for his ridiculous antics. This is not really Winstone’s fault, more the writing’s, but still it is hard to take the character seriously.
Finally, Farrell as Mitchell does act well. His goodness is portrayed a little clumsily but well enough to make him likable. The film also makes it very clear he is not someone to mess around with. The plot however creates problems. His being involved more and more with the gangster side is that his relationship with Charlotte is rushed to completion. As such their feelings do not seem that genuine. What is even worse is that the direction the movie takes towards the end does not gel with Mitchell’s character. The switch from rough diamond to cold killer happens too suddenly and with not enough justification, particularly since acting the way he does could only bring grief to Charlotte, whom he apparently cares about. It’s a crack in suspension of disbelief, only to be widened by Jordan joining in the killing for no adequately explained reason, and in a horribly contrived scenario.
Of the peripheries, only two elements really stand out. The score, though fitting the tone nicely, was a little overbearing and could have been toned down. Also the violence was truly excellent, appearing with brutal suddenness made all the more shocking by the contrast with heavy calm before and after the event. But it is one good thing amongst too much bad.
In the end London Boulevard is in parts really interesting, with entertaining characters and an insightful look at the dark side of celebrity. Unfortunately for the most part it is a bog-standard crime drama with poor characterisation, silly writing and several niggling plot holes. This film therefore is very disappointing and as such I don’t really recommend paying cinema prices to see it. Especially if you suffer from high blood pressure.