USA/Great Britain
103 minutes

For his directorial debut, The Departed screenwriter William Monahan stays firmly within genre territory with this adaptation of Irish writer Ken Bruen's riff on Sunset Boulevard, about a London ex-con torn between leaving his past behind and giving in to it, with entertaining but seriously mixed results. Unsure whether it wants to be a breezy, stylish crime caper or a more brutal, serious crime drama - in essence, The Italian Job or Get Carter - mr. Monahan keeps shifting abruptly between both, in a way mirroring its own central character, thoughtful ex-con Mitchel (Colin Farrell), hired as handyman for reclusive film star Charlotte (Keira Knightley) while being pulled back into the life by inept mate Billy (Ben Chaplin).
Contrasting the seedy, exotic glamour of London's underworld with the neurotic, rarefied one of Holland Park, the film plays fast and loose with an enticing retro patine; despite the presence of cellphones grounding it in contemporary reality, the movie, scored by Kasabian's Sergio Pizzorno, lovingly fetishises record players, sideburns, vintage British cars and other period trappings. But mr. Monahan's clumsy attempts at stylisation, lushly photographed by the revered Chris Menges, never truly gel into a cohesive whole, unhelped by the sketchy archetypes (nutty sister, reclusive celebrity, vicious gang boss) most of the characters are turned into and the occasionally clunky cutting.
Thankfully, the cast, superbly led by a charismatic mr. Farrell (in his best role in years) and a toweringly menacing Ray Winstone, fleshes them out brilliantly and has a ball with mr. Monahan's cracking dialogue (David Thewlis' druggy failed actor is a wonder, but ms. Knightley, saddled with an impossible role, is paradoxically the one bum note). And the nicely matter-of-fact, no-nonsense approach to the material makes London Boulevard a brisk, enjoyably unpretentious time-passer, even if the talent involved promised a much better film.

Starring Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley; David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Ben Chaplin; and Ray Winstone.
Directed by William Monahan; produced by Graham King, Tim Headington, Quentin Curtis, mr. Monahan; screenplay by mr. Monahan, based on the novel by Ken Bruen, London Boulevard; music by Sergio Pizzorno; director of photography (Technicolor), Chris Menges; production designer, Martin Childs; costume designer, Odile Dicks-Mireaux; film editors, Dody Dorn, Robb Sullivan.
A GK Films presentation of a GK Films/Henceforth Pictures/Projection Pictures production. (UK distributor, Entertainment Film Distributors. US distributor, Film District. World sales, GK Films.)
Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 12 (Lisbon), March 31st 2011. 


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