2010 – 103mn – 18

Directed by William Monahan. Starring Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone, Anna Friel, David Thewlis.

Review by Walter Nichols

THE Oscar-winning writer of The Departed directs his first film in London Boulevard, an adaptation of the Ken Bruen crime novel of the same name. The film sees ex-con Mitchell (Colin Farrell), fresh out of prison, become the bodyguard of a reclusive movie star (Keira Knightley). She spends her time hidden away in a Holland Park mansion, and Mitchell is virtually the only person she interacts with. He quickly falls in love with her and she with him. But Mitchell’s old life intrudes in the shape of vicious gangster Gant (Ray Winstone) – Mitchell’s old boss – who’s not about to let him walk away without extorting a price first.

London Boulevard is predictable in every way: predictable in casting, predictable in plot, predictable in mood, predictable in violence and profanity. Monahan directs the film less as an homage to 80s Brit crime flicks and more as a straight rip-off, which means the whole thing is tediously familiar. To be frank it’s barely better than a Danny Dyer movie – Monahan might be a solid script writer, but his directing lacks any inspiration – and is only lifted by the starry cast.

Colin Farrell, enjoying a stunning revival of late (starting with In Bruges in 2008, the Irishman has been absolutely flawless in a wide variety of movies and roles), makes Boulevard. He’s a perfect sort of Bob Hoskins figure for the 21st century – more of a looker, sure, but just as tough, and conveying an ambiguous nobility with every action. The supporting cast (David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Stephen Graham, Eddie Marsan) do a great job as well. Where the casting fails is in the two other leads. Winstone plays Gant as an intense parody of the tough guy he portrays in betting ads, and Knightley – an actress who is either sublime or cringe worthy – is at her most vacuous and unwatchable. This leaves a gaping void at the core of the film, as the whole of the proceedings rests on the conceit that Mitchell is really in love with her, and that she is, at least to a degree, worthy of such love.

Ken Bruen is currently hot property in Hollywood (two of his other books, Once Were Cops and Tower, are also being worked into movies). Let’s hope future adaptations do him better justice.

Star rating: 2 out of 5 stars