February 19, 2012

Filthy Review - London Boulevard

London Boulevard (2010)

Review by Jude Felton

London Boulevard is the directorial debut of The Departed’s screenwriter, William Monahan. Aside from that fact I really did not know too much about this movie. I knew it had a good solid cast, in fact it has a terrific cast, but little else. Sometimes that is the best way to go into a movie, with no real expectations. The fact that Monahan wrote the screenplay for The Departed was neither here nor there for me as I preferred Infernal Affairs, from which The Departed was based on.

As the opening credits rolled I did notice one other interesting fact, and that was that this movie is based on the novel, of the same name, by Ken Bruen. Another of Bruen’s novels was recently adapted into the Jason Statham serial killer movie, Blitz. That wasn’t an outstanding movie, although I did enjoy it for the most part.

The plot of London Boulevard is a staple of crime thrillers, or more specifically gangster flicks, and that is one of the ex-con going straight. In this case it is Colin Farrell’s character Mitchel, he’s just done three years for GBH and now he wants to go straight. Never the easiest of tasks, especially in the movies and especially when the person who is there to meet you from jail is Billy (Ben Chaplin). Billy is a smalltime crook, and one of Mitchel’s good friends. He also happens to work for Gant, the local crime lord played by Ray Winstone, so you know it ain’t going to be easy.

Mitchel makes a go of it though. Through a chance meeting he ends up at the house of reclusive actress Charlotte, played by Keira Knightly, and her man servant/friend/confidant Jordan (David Thewlis). They want Mitchel to work for her, doing work around the house, and if need be to eject people from the property. So begins a twisting tale of gangsters, gals and guns, amongst other things.

What could have been an overly complicated movie, with all its many plot strands, wound up being very straightforward to these eyes. Guy Ritchie’s Mockney flicks are far more labyrinthine, so this was easy going. There’s also none of the humor that is prevalent in Ritchie’s flicks. In London Boulevard everything is played straight, and any humor that is used is purely in small doses, and usually involves Thewlis’ character Jordan.

The film is quite obviously set in a present day London, albeit a slightly glamorized version of it, but the heart and soul of the film is very much stuck in the 60’s. From the music, to the cars, to the entire feel of the film. It came across to me as a love letter to the swinging sixties, and I half expected Michael Caine to pop up somewhere. This aesthetic worked really well to these eyes though.

The cast in London Boulevard is truthfully quite wonderful. Farrell is charming and understated in the lead, the violence just simmering below the surface, Chaplin as Billy is just a riot, as is Thewlis, and Ray Winstone is just terrifying as Gant. Even the bit parts, that are still filled with recognizable faces, all do terrific jobs. In fact the only real weak link in all of this is Knightly. She just doesn’t seem to do an awful lots. Sure she looks good, despite having an awful haircut and being rakishly thin, but that’s about it. I would have liked to have seen a little more passion in her role. Maybe a stronger actress would have worked better.

London Boulevard is a dialogue heavy movie, with plenty of “farkin” and “cunts” being thrown around for good measure, but there are also sudden scenes of brutal and shocking violence. Even though you are expecting violence, as this is a gangster flick, it still manages to surprise when it comes. One bar scene in particular punches right to the gut. By the time the movie draws to a close you might just be surprised at how many dead bodies there are.

This is a violent movie, but it is also quite a charming one. The interaction between characters is spot on and visually it is quite gorgeous. It almost makes me want to pop back and visit London. I said almost. I wasn’t overly happy with the ending, but that still didn’t spoil for me what I thought was a thoroughly engaging movie.

London Boulevard has all the gangster clichés and a plot we have seen many times before. Despite that, or maybe because of that, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. The strength of the cast carry the film above the familiar and make for an entertaining couple of hours. Definitely worth a watch, especially if you dig English gangster flicks.

London Boulevard is released on February 21st on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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