Written and Directed by William Monahan London Boulevard is a film that heralds the arrival of a new directorial talent to watch.
Having written and adapted screenplays for The Departed, Edge of Darkness, Body of Lies, and Kingdom Of Heaven, William Monahan chose to head to London’s East End to bring to life his directorial debut. Based on Ken Bruen’s novel of the same name, London Boulevard tells the story of Mitchell (Colin Farrell), just released from a three year stint for GBH. Through Mitchell we are introduced to his acquaintance Billy (Ben Chaplin), a small time gangster who has a past with Mitchell, a corrupt cop named Bailey (Eddie Marsan) who is tailing Mitchel and shaking him down for money, and Mitchell’s mentally troubled sister Briony (Anna Friel).
Determined not to return to gaol, Mitchell takes a job of working for recluse film star Charlotte (Keira Knightley), and meets her minder Jordan (David Thewlis). Mitchell sets about distancing himself from his previous criminal life. But this is not to be, local manor Boss Rob Gant (Ray Winstone) is determined to have Mitchell back in the criminal fold, weather Mitchell wants to be involved or not.
For his directorial debut, Monahan has collected a who’s who of contemporary British ciniema.Thewlis is great as the drugged out actor/solicitor/killer Jordan, while Knightley as the stalked young Charlotte plays a role with which she is very familiar. Charlotte is prime prey of the paparazzi, who are relentlessly investigating her, and who appears to be the source of her mental problems – a soft spot for Farrell’s’ Mitchell.
Monahan uses a mixed up period soundtrack to bring into mind the great British crime dramas of the sixties and seventies throughout the film. In particular Monahan is influenced by Mike Hodges 1971 Get Carter. The film opens in 2.35:1 ratio widescreen which creates the atmosphere from the get go, and is supplemented by the great Yardbirds song Heart Full of Soul, playing over the opening credits. Through the streaming together of the several different narrative ends of what is taking place on screen Dody Dorn,and Robb Sullivan’s editing keeps the story coherent, and easy to follow. One of the problems though is that because of the source material and the culture of this film genre, the atmosphere can quickly change, and the editing flow may not be consistent with what is taking place on screen. A violent scene quickly turns humorous, or vice versa, and the camera in some cases seems to be chasing the action, rather than being prepared for it. In fairness, this could be a deliberate ploy to bring tension to the action taking place, and to supplement the dialogue.
This is quite possibly the best thing that Colin Farrell has done for some time. One might even have to go as far back as 2003’s Intervention to see him in this form. With a great supporting cast who seem to be quite happy to play a secondary role in the film, the work belongs to Farrell as Mitchell. The role calls for Mitchell to be in virtually every scene to build tension in the character. Mitchell is like pressure cooker slowly simmering as we witness a man slowly explode into violence. This is practically evident in the dialogue, and we watch it happening to this man as he fights to regain control of himself.
In a confrontation with Winstones psychotic Gant, Mitchell gives all the warnings about what is about to take place. He tells Gant…
“See, what you have to understand is that if I were a gangster – Rob – you would be the first to fucking die. I wouldn’t work for you. I would kill you and take everything you’ve got – if I were a gangster. That’s why you don’t want me to be a gangster. Nobody wants me to be a gangster. ‘Cause I couldn’t stop if I started. Do you get it?”
Yeah we get it, and it is lines like this that are skittled throughout the film which will make this a cult classic. Though not a masterpiece by any means this is certainly a guilty pleasure to be put alongside 2000’s Sexy Beast .It is sharp, clever and engaging piece of work that I would be happy to sit through again. The film holds your interest from the beginning until its unexpected conclusion and does not let go until the final credits have rolled.
The film looks and sounds great, sadly though there is a lack of extras. There are several interviews with the cast, with the interview conducted with David Thewlis the most interesting. There is also a trailer and this is very interesting. The reason is because there are stacks of great scenes in the trailer that are not in the movie. If they were added extras as deleted scenes fair enough, but they are not included. Makes me wonder if there is a different cut floating around. If so I would love to see it.