Review: London Boulevard

I’m never going back inside Billy…never…for no one

It’s hard to write about a film where you have no real reaction to it, positive or negative. London Boulevard is by no means a bad film but it’s not a particularly good one either. It sits on the screen never truly engaging you but not inducing a fit of boredom. One word to describe would is underwhelming.

That’s a shame as the talent involved in the production is considerable and the pooling of all those talents is this lacklustre piece.

The film follows Mitchell [Colin Farrell], a recently released convict who meets up with his friend Billy [Ben Chaplin]. He takes him to his ‘return’ party and an offer for work. At the party he meets a popular, young and reclusive actress in the guise of Charlotte [Keira Knightley] who requires a bodyguard to keep the paparazzi away. Around this revolves several sub-plots involving Mitchell that reluctantly bring him back to gangster fold that he wants to leave behind.

The plot is rather basic and the hope is that the performances and execution would elevate the material. Yet William Monahan listlessly directs the thing, there’s little effort to make it engaging and performances meandering from average to good. There’s a part of me that expected better. Perhaps you’ll feel it as well.

Whether it’s Farrell, who looks moody and pensive for most of the film, Knightley’s jittery, nervous demeanour or David Thewlis as the sloth-like, drug-addled Jordan, no one really lifts the material they are given. Winstone plays Gant, the big boss man who wants to enlist the services of Mitchell is ok as an angry, intimidating and foul-mouthed malcontent, though it’s a performance you’ll feel you’ve seen before. It’s very by-the-numbers.

The central relationship between Farrell and Knightley also exposes another flaw. Very little in the film feels genuine, as if there is a surreal sheen to everything. Their relationship comes out of need, Knightley is out for a dependable and functional figure and Farrell as a path out of the gangster mire, but despite creating that connection both actors struggles to make it convincing. They meet, spend time with each other and fall in love – these scenes feel thrown together, the sparks between failing to fly.

Not helping are the several subplots that fail to come together to a cohesive whole. Characters come and go without reason as the film plods along.

What it does get right is the feel of a gangster film. There’s an appreciation of British gangster flicks from the sixties and seventies though this film never gets close to equalling them. It takes itself a little too seriously in places and considering it’s directed by an American, Monahan doesn’t reduce London to a postcard, focuses on the neighbourhoods and circles, building up a small criminal fraternity. The music recalls sixties and seventies Britain and adds some style.

Boulevard serves as a perfunctory look back at the classic British crime films and, for one reason or another, never amounts to anything beyond distinctly average.

5/10

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Posted on 02/12/2010, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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