London Boulevard DIRECTED BY: William Monahan
WRITTEN BY: William Monahan
STARRING: Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone, Anna Friel, David Thewlis, Ben Chaplin, Stephen Graham, Eddie Marsan
RELEASE DATE: October 5, 2011 (on demand); November 11, 2011 (limited theatrical release)
Writer William Monahan has made quite a name for himself as a screenwriter, crafting the scripts for films such as Kingdom of Heaven, Body of Lies, Edge of Darkness, and The Departed, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Now Monahan is stepping behind the camera for his directorial debut, London Boulevard (which he also wrote), but can he find the same kind of success as the man in charge?
The movie follows Mitchel (Colin Farrell), a very dangerous man who’s just getting out of prison. As is the case with most who come out of prison, he’s now facing two paths: one leading right back to his old life, while the other leads to a fresh start. Mitch tries to go legit and wants nothing to do with the life of crime he once knew, but unfortunately for him that’s a difficult feat to accomplish when some of the people closest to you are trying to pull you back in.
In an effort to make his new life work, Mitch takes on a job protecting Charlotte (Keira Knightley), one of the wold’s biggest movie stars who’s constantly assaulted by paparazzi cameras, which has forced her into a lonely and depressing life of seclusion. The effect that fame has had on Charlotte is evident and she appears physically weakened by it, so Mitch strives to protect her and a bond is formed between the very different pair.
It appears that Mitch has found a doorway to a clean life, but when an intimidating mob boss named Gant (Ray Winstone) decides he wants a man of his skill set working for him (and does not take no for an answer), Mitch is backed into an uncomfortable corner…one he has no choice but to reach deep down into his dark past to try and get out of.
First things first: London Boulevard has an outstanding cast. Farrell and Knightley are both strong, and I’ll watch (and usually enjoy) anything with Ray Winstone in it. But that’s just the start; surrounding them is a list of great talents that includes David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Ben Chaplin, Stephen Graham, and Eddie Marsan. It also offers up a fantastic soundtrack and musical score, which is always greatly appreciated.
The movie itself is not bad, but it’s also difficult to say it’s good. There’s things to like about it, starting with the cast and including a brutal and gritty story with some memorable moments. But unfortunately everything feels jumbled together.
It could be that there was simply too much going on in the Ken Bruen novel from which it was adapted, or perhaps it’s just the fact that it was Monahan’s first go at directing, but there was an overall sense of underdevelopment. There’s all these characters intertwined in this complicated series of events, but the movie doesn’t transition smoothly from one event to the next. So when everything comes to a boiling point near the end, you as the viewer are almost caught off guard.
The whole “bad guy gets out of prison, tries to be good guy, gets lured back to bad ways” story has been done numerous times in the past, and so London Boulevard was badly in need of some originality to keep things fresh and entertaining throughout, which, sadly, was never delivered.
The difficulty in getting from point A to point B was damaging to the movie overall, but the parts worth seeing shouldn’t be overlooked either. Again, there’s some good performances and moments here (including a particularly intense face-to-face confrontation between Farrell and Winstone reminiscent of two lions in a battle for dominance), and the explosive ending alone makes it worth seeing. I just wish the journey to said ending was a little more satisfying.
Not a movie for everyone, London Boulevard isn’t one most should rush out and see. For fans of the cast or mob/crime stories, however, it is certainly worth taking note of.