If Richard Curtis made gangster movies, they would probably be a bit like London Boulevard. The film reeks of artificiality, and the main characters are less than engaging.
Just released from prison, Mitchell intends to go straight after receiving a job offer from a reclusive but beautiful female celebrity. His friends have other things in mind, however. Mitchell is reluctantly dragged into the London underworld by a powerful gangster, but at the same time is getting to know Charlotte better…
Directed and written by William Monahan, based on Ken Bruen’s novel, London Boulevard strives to be a great British gangster film. While the story of a reformed criminal struggling to juggle his past and future is adequate (although it offers little in originality), the film lacks compelling characters. There are some amusing characters, but Mitchell is not engrossing enough to carry the film.
Ray Winstone’s Gant is a caricature East-End gangster; at times it feels like he is parodying some of his previous roles. Charlotte’s self-obsession does not make her the most appealing love interest, while there is a lack of intrigue to Mitchell. Some of the minor characters are entertaining, nonetheless. Mitchell’s friend Billy is the source of amusement, while Jordan is deliciously over the top, thanks to a great performance from David Thewlis.
London Boulevard thinks it’s cooler than it actually is, an aspect that grates increasingly as the film goes on. Despite the contemporary setting, there is very much a ‘London in the swinging sixties’ feel, generated by the music and the dated archetypes. With its gratuitous swearing and violence, it seems that Monahan aimed to make a classic gangster film, but the result appears artificial. London Boulevard is clearly a film about London from a non-Londoner. It’s romanticised depiction of the city is visually faithful, yet the atmosphere rings hollow.
Colin Farrell gives a decent performance, but his London accent is distractingly patchy. Kiera Knightly does a good job of playing herself – not much of a stretch. Ben Chaplin injects some lightheartedness as Billy, while Anna Friel is excellent as Mitchell’s chaotic sister, Briony.
Towards the end of London Boulevard, numerous plot holes appear. Certain aspects are never explained or concluded, and the climax is disorderly in its descent. Although most of the camera work is adequate, there are a few jarring episodes, such as the shaky handheld shots of Mitchell and Gant’s confrontation in the car park.
London Boulevard seems to be an attempt for Monahan to replicate his success in screenwriting The Departed. London Boulevard, however, lacks a proficient storyline as well as convincing and absorbing characters. Give it a miss.