' ' Cinema Romantico: London Boulevard

Monday, March 12, 2012

London Boulevard

-"I was thinking about something else."
-"What were you thinking about when you were thinking about something else?"
-"Whatever it was, I wasn't thinking about it clearly enough."

This 2011 drama/thriller doubling as Oscar winning screenwriter William Monahan's directorial debut often feels scene-to-scene, moment-to-moment as if it's thinking about something else except whatever else it's thinking about it isn't thinking about it clearly enough. Though, oddly, it also is rarely thinking about what it is thinking about clearly enough. Monahan won his Oscar for “The Departed” and clearly wants to emulate Scorsese, only to instead evoke Madonna-era Guy Ritchie.

Mitchell (Colin Farrell) has just been released from prison for a three year stint on account of a vicious assault to rejoin the wilds of South London. It doesn't take him long to fall into step with a gaggle of colorful side characters who can all orbit in their own inane ways around his laid-back, well-meaning menace. A numbskull ne'er-do-well longtime pal trying to pull him back toward a life of petty crime? Check. A brutal but stylish crime boss? Check. A crooked cop? Check. An alcoholic wackadoo sister? Check. A homeless guy the protagonist looks upon like a father? Check. An agoraphobic weed addict? Check. A beautiful but reclusive actress? Check.

The last one is the key. Well, at least the ad campaign would lead you to believe it's the key. The beautiful but reclusive actress is Charlotte and she is played by Keira Knightley who is featured with Farrell on the poster. She and her agoraphobic weed addict business manager (David Thewlis) hire this Mitchell as a bodyguard/handyman - mostly bodyguard - to keep away the paparazzi. He accepts. They bond. Attraction flickers. L.A. beckons.

Meanwhile the obligatory idiotic antics of Mitchell's age-old pal Billy (Ben Chaplin) drag him into contact with the utterly remorseless Rob Gant (Ray Winstone) who wants Mitchell to take up a critical position in his organization only to be rebuffed again and again which leads him, as it must, to deciding that Mitchell needs to be offed because if Gant can't have him, no one can. Why doesn't Gant just move along to the next enterprising ex-criminal? Such pointless questions, dear reader.

Oh yeah. There's also the homeless guy (Alan Williams) for whom Mitchell cares. And Mitchell's alcoholic wackadoo sister (Anna Friel, crush level: broiling) for whom he also cares. They both factor into the story in their own blabbity blah way.

"London Boulevard" was based on a novel by Ken Bruen and feels as such since there is essentially too much plot and too much character for Monahan to control. No relationships and no motivations convince. I don’t mind a movie that conjures a love affair over the course of only two scenes but if that’s how you choose to play it then spruce up the hot & heavy. Farrell, though, is just too gruff for such Harlequin antics and Knightley takes the reclusive part of her role too close to heart, as if she’s sleepwalking in a Jane Austen story. The gangster side-story, meanwhile, threatens to usurp the romantic angle, despite Knightley’s likeness on the poster, but just paints by numbers. There’s no charge, no intensity, no threat level midnight.

This is a chalk outline of a real movie.


Andrew K. said...

Aaaaw :( Well, sort of, I gave this a c+, but then I generally like movies I give c+ (which is further proof, probably, that I grade things like a hardass, but I digress).

I do agree that there's greater promise than actual movie, but Monahan gets things right, for me - his dialogue is very precise, but still has the power to seem real and I'm generally more impressed with the performances than you.

After almost a year since I saw it I still remember random things (like that bizarre funeral "we're all f***ed) or "
"How many kids you got?"
"I dunno...3?" "

I'm interested in his next venture.

Red said...

I warned you....

Nick Prigge said...

Andrew: I didn't dislike all the performances necessarily. I thought some of the supporting ones had more interesting things going on, but the script, the cohesiveness of its themes, none of that came across even half-baked to me.

Red: Yes. I know. Believe me. I briefly contemplated writing a review from the perspective of a man who forces himself to watch movies he wants to see even though he knows they are supposed to be bad but I have ANOTHER review coming up from that POV.