Review: London Boulevard
PLOT: After being released from prison, ex-con Mitchel looks to start his life fresh. He first finds possible employment as a bodyguard for a troubled actress with paparazzi and cheating ex issues. He is also given the opportunity for another type of job, one which could land him right back in jail. Mitchel must find the balance of helping out a few old friends and listening to his own moral questioning as to what is right and wrong.
Colin Farrell has become one of the most interesting actors working today. He seems to carefully select his roles and is usually drawn to uniquely flawed characters. LONDON BOULEVARD is no exception. In fact, his portrait of a criminal trying to straighten up is filled with intensity and morality. Yes he is a killer, but he is nowhere near the murderer that people around him seem to think he should be. If only the film itself – written and directed by William Monahan (screenwriter for THE DEPARTED and BODY OF LIES) – had the structure to hold such a fascinating idea up to the light. It’s a terrific character in this ambitious but ultimately over stuffed thriller.
Farrell plays an ex-con named Mitchel who is released from prison. His time away has changed him for the better. While looking for a place to start fresh, his world begins to open up when he pursues a possible job working for a film star named Charlotte (Keira Knightley). The actress has fallen into recent tabloid trouble thanks to a disappearing husband, and a career she wants to leave behind. The paparazzi however is constantly hiding out around her place looking for trash to print. With the help of her pot smoking personal assistant Jordan (the wonderfully daffy David Thewlis) she attempts to find peace and quiet away from the constant harassment from the press.
When Mitchel arrives, the actress finds herself trusting in this seemingly honest man. The two find themselves connecting to each other and finding solace in the relationship. Even Jordan feels comfort having the confident, yet secretive Mitchel around. Between these three characters, there is a surprisingly warm – albeit wounded – family relationship. Much of the dialogue between the three works incredibly well. This was an interesting story and one that I wish had been the main focus of LONDON BOULEVARD. Yet in addition to this, there was equal time with gangsters, guns and murder.
As welcome as Mitchel is to Charlotte and Jordan, he becomes of equal interest to a mobster named Gant (Ray Winstone). The gangster makes life really difficult for Mitchel pressuring him to be one of his goons. Of course, things don’t always go smoothly with a guy like Gant involved. The same can be said about the film as well. LONDON BOULEVARD is cursed with entirely too much going on. The storyline involving Farrell and Knightley often takes a backseat to Mitchel’s alcoholic, bi-polar sister Briony (Anna Friel) or his refusal to work with the vicious Gant (Ray Winstone). Mitchel’s life is so crowded with everyone else’s problems that the film loses focus. Sure Knightley is the romantic lead, but there seems to be more focus on Winstone. That doesn’t even include the other many relationships that are stuffed throughout the feature, including Mitchel's loser friend played by Ben Chaplin.
As far as Monahan the director, he has created a stylish thriller visually speaking. However, the many odd edits quickly take the viewer out of the picture. This oddly puzzled together slice of fiction looked to be the start of something terrific, yet it is never given the chance to live up to its promise. With terrific performances from Farrell, Knightley, Winstone and Thwelis, and moments of incredibly smart dialogue spread throughout, it could have been perfect. Yet the snail’s pace of a story and the over abundance of characters hold LONDON BOULEVARD back from being a great feature film. As it stands, there is a ton of promise with a steady stream of classic rock in Monahan’s feature film directorial debut, yet in the end it remains a semi-dull and unsatisfying film experience.