Wednesday, 16 November 2011

London Boulevard - film review


It's not very easy for a gangster film to avoid cliches of the genre, and I was rather worried when the 2010 movie London Boulevard began in a way strongly reminiscent of The Italian Job. A London criminal (Colin Farrell, rather than Michael Caine) is released from prison, and a celebration is laid on for him by his friends before he is offered the opportunity of "one more job".

At this point, however, the script takes off. It is based on a novel by Ken Bruen and the title is a spin on Sunset Boulevard. A pretty girl introduces Farrell to a retired actress, and he takes on the task of looking after her at a time when she is besieged by the paparazzi. But the actress is no Norma Desmond – she's played by Keira Knightley.

Unfortunately, Farrell gets mixed up with the activities of a tough criminal played by (inevitably?) Ray Winstone, and before long he has good cause to be worried about the safety of his beautiful but totally flaky sister – a very good part for yet another gorgeous actress, Anna Friel. The plot developments come thick and fast as Farrell also sets out to avenge the brutal murder of a disabled friend of his by a couple of young hoodlums. An irony of the story is that, on one occasion when Farrell resists the urge to mete out violent retribution, he lives to regret it.

There is a good deal of violence in this film, but the quality of the screenplay is such that it never seems to become gratuitous. I've read a number of deeply unenthusiastic reviews of this film, but the negative reaction of some critics really surprises me. I think London Boulevard is one of the best films about gangsters that I've ever seen.

4 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Glad to hear you enjoyed this. I'm not usually much of a one for gangster films; as a rule they are cliched, as you point out so well. It's good to know that this one avoids those traps. I'd read some of those negative reviews, too, and had actually decided not to see this one. Perhaps I should re-think that...

John said...

Now you ought to read the book to see how differeent it is from the film. Bruen intended the novel to be a modern update of SUNSET BOULEVARD. In the book the actress is in her 60s and she has a male servant with a mysterious background and a foreign accent - just like Norma and Max. And there's more than that in common with the Swanson/Holden movie. No dead monkey, though. I read the novel last year and I recall hardly anything about it now other than than the many similarities to Billy Wilder's excellent movie.

Maxine said...

I saw this on TV the other day - review t/c soon. I thought the first 2/3 was very good - well, I ennjoyed it - partly for the sparkling, funny script and partly for Keira K, Anna Friel and David Thewlis's acting.

The Ray Winstone gangster plot was silly and the last 20 mins of the movie awful, but I think on balance I'm quite glad I watched it, as I thought Keira Knightley in particular was very credible, and the cinematography good, and the whole thing kept moving along nicely. The gangster elements were irritating, I thought, though.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow. It's been really trashed here. So surprising. Glad to hear someone praise it.