London Boulevard * * 1/2

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Director: William Monahan.
Screenplay: William Monahan.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Ray Winstone, Ben Chaplin, Keira Knightley, David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Stephen Graham, Eddie Marsan, Sanjeev Bhasker.

William Monahan is better known for his screenwriting duties. Namely, the Oscar winning “The Departed”, leaving him no stranger to a gangster yarn. What is strange though, is despite being American he marks his directorial debut with a ‘Landan’ Cockney geezer gangster yarn.

Hardman Mitchell (Colin Farrell) gets out of prison and tries not to be lured back into crime by an old friend (Ben Chaplin) and a gang boss (Ray Winstone). He takes a job as bodyguard for a reclusive film star (Keira Knightley), but still finds it hard to go straight.

Even though Monahan is from across the pond, his attention to detail and setting for his British gangster flick is very impressive. Surprisingly, what disappoints – from a screenwriter – is a tight screenplay. The plot has more holes than the unfortunate victims of crime in this. Which is a real shame, as it’s boasts an excellent cast. Farrell channels a brooding intensity and his showdowns with Winstone’s gang lord are hightened with tension. The Irishman holding his own against the ‘daddy’. These brief confrontations are the highlight of the film, as the rest of the cast are given nothing to work with. David Thewlis’ stoned murderous hippie is unconvincing and the love interest with Kiera Knightley’s pampered thespian is plain dull. The one that comes out with the plaudits is Ben Chaplin as a greasy haired weasel-like accomplice. The biggest crime in this crime film though, is the misuse of Stephen Graham (“This Is England”). He’s a fabulous actor who’s sadly given a thankless character and very little screen time. On the plus side, the build up to Farrell’s character is intriguing. We are privy to is his reputation, but never really know what he’s done or what he’s capable of, until his ruthless character unravels.

It’s nothing new. I’ve seen better, by better. A reasonably decent gangster yarn but with the actors involved, it should have been something special. Check out Brian DePalma’s “Carlito’s Way” instead, it’s much more rewarding.

Mark Walker

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