You know I’m a sucker for Ken Bruen, so why has it taken so long to catch up with this 2010 neo-noir film? Not spectacularly successful, I’m not even sure it made it to American shores, my home at the time. I can see why it did not make a splash; people who were impressed with the PKD-lite shenanigans of Inception and the Loadsamoney obsessions of The Social Network would have no truck with this dark slice of crime along the Thames despite its all-star cast and a Bruen novel scripted by director William Monahan.
Short explanation: London Boulevard is neo-noir.
What do we know about noir: people are going to die. Things are not going to turn out cheery for everyone. Triumphing against the odds in a Hollywood finish? Not going to happen.
Colin Farrell’s Mitchel gets out of Pentonville at the start, picked up by his childhood friend Billy (Chaplin), who’s responsible for his being there, naturally. Mitchel turns out to be the sort of rough character with an idiosyncratic sense of honour that Bruen loves so well. When a couple of thugs kill his homeless friend, he pursues them doggedly, slightly distracted by becoming security for the reclusive star played by Knightly and being pursued for recruitment by Ray Winstone’s gangster Gant (channeling Michael Caine). The ham-handed heavy tries to get on Mitchel’s good side by grabbing one of the black gang who beat him up, but he’s so callously racist he doesn’t realise he’s made a mistake and doesn’t care. Add into the mix Mitchel’s increasingly erratic sister who refuses to take her meds (Friel), a kind-hearted doctor (Bhaskar) and David Thewlis’ bizarrely singular actor/addict/producer Jordan who’s too unpredictable to trust.
There’s a wonderful little monologue from Knightly’s character about women in films that’s sharply accurate of the state of mainstream films (even this one: Knightly is little more than a dream of what might be, present or absent when needed by the male lead). Of course there’s the Bruen touches you expect: black humour, Rilke and some obsession with Francis Bacon paintings (not your usual crime fare).
Well worth checking out; be sure to see the round up of overlooked gems at Todd’s.