4.5 out of 10

Release Date: 26th November 2010

Director: William Monaghan

Cast: Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Ben Chaplin, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Stephen Graham, Ophelia Lovibond, Matt King with Eddie Marsan and Ray Winstone

Writer: Ken Bruen


London_Boulevard_PosterPacked to the gunnels with plot, London Boulevard has too much going on.  A star-filled calzione of a movie, William Monaghan’s glossy run through the seemier side of London’s night life comes across as a confused mess.  Why this got the big budget treatment and the dozen other UK gangster movies like it never is probably down to contacts and agents.  It’s a fickle old world the film industry.  London Boulevard offers nothing plot-wise that The Big I Am, Kill List, The Jack Trilogy or Bonded By Blood don’t have.  Just so you know.  Casting such a movie with expensive actors is certainly a novelty but does it make it anymore watchable?  Yes and no.

As I’ve said London Boulevard has more plot than three films, so some strands get short changed when trying to crunch them into a standard 90 minutes. Particularly the central plot concerning a ‘one-time bad boy trying to go straight’ who lands a jobs as bodyguard for a shut-away actress (KEIRA KNIGHTLEY – ATONEMENT).  At the same time the sad bad boy  (COLIN FARRELL – IN BRUGES) is getting dragged back into the game by his unpredictable and dangerous sister (ANNA FRIEL – BROOKSIDE) and the current Mr Big (RAY WINSTONE – ELFIE HOPKINS), who needs a good lieutenant.  Bent cops, dodgy drugs, racist killings, Ben Chaplin (THE THIN RED LINE), credit card fraud and invasive paparazzi all figure to a massive extent. All these ingredients are swirled around for an hour and a half to well-acted but pointless effect. Colin Farrell is one of my favourite Hollywood actors because he avoids obvious casting, but along with the rest of the cast, I think their well-connected director / writer sold them a three hour epic that got chopped in the mix.  Eddie Marsan‘s (I, ANNA)  bent copper seems to have had the worst of the expurgation. Keira Knightley is well cast but the obvious conclusion to their situation seems rushed along in order to usher in the next morsel of plot.  Colin Farrell is in almost every scene, so he’s called upon to emotionally fluctuate less than naturally as the movie progresses.  The only person to truly come out smelling of roses is a welcome character turn by David Thewlis (THE BIG LEBOWSKI), who I’ve missed in British films.  He plays a failed actor who shares Keira Knightley‘s house, to keep her from cracking from loneliness.  Ray Winstone is great but conforms to type as the current king of the underworld.  The cinematography and the production values are all top of the line here. No expense has been spared on the cars and neon soaked vistas on offer.

London Boulevard is a strange, lifeless beast that may have benefitted from fewer story lines and characters.  This would have given the initially intriguing central story dynamic a chance to breathe.  Both Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley are well cast, but they are lost in the mix.  I think the film was shortened down from a much longer movie and what we’ve been left with are the basics.  Disappointing but not tragic.

4.5 out of 10 – An uninvolving and expensive version of just about every other London set gangster movie you’ve ever seen.

READ JOE PESCI II’s counter review BELOW!!! 


  • Colin Farrell: The Beguiled, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, The Lobster, Solace, Miss Julie (2015), True Detective (TV), A Winter’s Tale, Saving Mr Banks, Dead Man Down, Seven Psychopaths, Total Recall (2012), Fright Night (2011), Horrible Bosses, The Way Back, Ondine, The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus, In Bruges,  Crazy Heart, Cassandra’s Dream, Miami Vice Movie, The New World, Intermission, Alexander, S.W.A.T., Veronica Guerin, Phone Booth, Daredevil, Minority Report, The Recruit, Hart’s War, Tigerland, The War Zone
  • Keira Knightley: Collateral Beauty, Say When, Everest, The Imitation Game,  Laggies, Can a Song Save Your Life?, Jack Ryan – Shadow Recruit, Anna Karenina (2012), Seeking a Friend For The End Of The World, A Dangerous Method, Last Night, Never Let Me Go,  The Duchess, The End Of Love, Silk, Atonement, Pirates Of The Caribbean 1-3, Domino, Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Jacket, King Arthur (2004), Love Actually, Pure, Thunderpants, Bend It Like Beckham, The Hole (2001), Star Wars- The Phantom Menace, Innocent Lies
  • David Thewlis: Regression, Macbeth (2015), Legend (2015), Queen & Country, The Theory of Everything, Zero Theorem, The Fifth Estate, Red 2, War Horse, The Lady (2012), Anonymous, Harry Potter 3, 6, 7 & 8, The Boy In Striped Pyjamas, Mr Nice, The Omen (2006), Basic Instinct 2,  The New World, Kingdom Of Heaven,  Gangster No.1, Whatever Happened To Harold Smith?, Besieged, The Big Lebowski, Divorcing Jack, Seven Days In Tibet, The Island Of Dr Moreau, Total Eclipse, James and The Giant Peach (voice), Restoration, Black Beauty (1994), Naked, The Trial (1993), Afraid Of The Dark, Life Is Sweet, Resurrected, Vroom
  • Anna Friel: Good People, The Look of Love, Limitless, Land Of The Lost, Goal II, Goal, Me Without You, Mad Cows, Rogue Trader, Land Girls, Brookside (TV)
  • Ben Chaplin: War Book,  Snowden, Cinderella (2015), Twixt, Dorian Gray, Chromophobia, Birthday Girl, Murder By Numbers, The Truth About Cats and Dogs,  The Thin Red Line, Washington Square,  Lost Souls, Feast Of July, Game On (TV), The Remains Of The Day
  • Sanjeev Bhaskar: Absolutely Anything, Zero Theorem, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, The Kumars At No.42 (TV), Anita and Me,  Goodness Gracious Me (TV)
  • Stephen Graham: Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Hyena, Boardwalk Empire (TV), Get Santa, Blood (2013)Best Laid Plans (2012), This Is England, This Is England 86, This Is England 88, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Season Of The Witch, Public Enemies, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Texas Killing Fields, Doghouse, Awaydays, The Damned Utd, Inkheart, Goal, Snatch, Coronation Street (TV), Downtime
  • Ophelia Lovibond: Man Up, 8 Minutes Idle, Guardians of the Galaxy, Turnout4-3-2-1, Mr Popper’s Penguins, Chatroom, Nowhere Boy
  • Matt King: Malice In Wonderland, Made In Dagenham, Bronson, Peep Show (TV)
  • Eddie Marsan:  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (TV), X+Y, Still Life, God’s Pocket,  Filth,  The World’s End, I Anna, Tyrannosaur, Snow White & The Huntsman, Sherlock Holmes 1 & 2, War Horse,  Junkhearts, The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, Heartless, Faintheart, Hancock, Happy Go Lucky, Grown Your Own, Miami Vice Movie, 21 Grams, The Illusionist (2007), Mission Impossible III,  The New World, Pierrepoint, Vera Drake, Gangster No.1, Gangs Of New York, The Bunker, Janice Beard 45wpm
  • Ray Winstone: Sabini, Jawbone, Point Break (2015), The Legend of Barney Thompson, The Gunman, Noah, The Lords of London, Ashes, The Hot PotatoThe Sweeney Movie, Snow White & The Huntsman, Elfie Hopkins, Hugo, The Devil’s Tomb, Rango (voice), Fathers Of GirlsTrackerSex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll44 Inch Chest, Edge Of Darkness,   Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skulls, Fool’s Gold, Breaking and Entering, The Departed, Cold Mountain, Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe (voice),  The Proposition, King Arthur (2004),  Ripley’s Game, The Martins, Last Orders, Sexy Beast, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, Nil By Mouth, Love Honour and Obey, Fanny and Elvis,  Final Cut,  Martha – Meet Daniel Luke and Laurence, Face, Ladybird Ladybird, Tank Malling, Quadrophenia, Scum, Robin Of Sherwood (TV)

2 thoughts on “LONDON BOULEVARD

  1. Pingback: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY | britpic

    So, you want to be a gangster? Well, actually, Colin Farrell doesn’t, he wants to get a proper job making tea for Keira Knightley, but life doesn’t care what we want, and it is Farrell’s doom to be a gangster. Yes, for my fiftieth Britpic review I thought I’d head upmarket. Here’s a film with big name stars (Farrell! Knightley! Ray Winstone!) and made by someone who’s won an Oscar! Yes, they’ve really rolled the red carpet out for this one. Even in tiny supporting roles we find NAMES! (Eddie Marsan! Anna Friel!) And look, here’s comedy support from David Thewlis! and Sanjeev Bhasker! And it’s (apparently) the most expensive British gangster movie ever!

    I suspect a great deal of that expense went on hiring a couple of Francis Bacon paintings (they don’t get out much, you don’t even see them in films about Bacon). They must be amongst the most expensive set decoration ever, designed to demonstrate that our heroine is (a) insanely rich, (b) cultured and (c) trapped. You may find that a tad pretentious, but this is a film which delights in pretension / demonstrates an affinity with the culture of the past. Elsewhere Farrell quotes the poet Rilke, Winstone reads Rousseau’s The Social Contract, and also employs a couple of heavies named after Jacobean playwriting duo Beaumont and Fletcher. None of which has all that much to do with proceedings (at least when Thewlis refers to Knightley as being the second most raped actress in Europe after Monica Bellucci it actually has a bearing on matters). Yes, this is a film which can read, and wants to show how clever it is, which it does by delivering a plot of monumental incomprehensibility and weightlessness.

    Colin Farrell is a busy man. Just out of jail, he wants to go straight. So he immediately teams up with petty gangster Ben Chaplin and becomes his protection racketeering henchman. The Mr Big (Ray Winstone) sees the lad is getting on nicely and wants to make him a proper gangster. So Farrell has to get himself out of the dodgy gangster trade. Meanwhile someone’s murdered a Big Issue seller who may or may not be Farrell’s father, so he’s after vengeance on that front. Meanwhile, a chance meeting with the improbably named Ophelia Lovibond has led to him getting a job as, well I don’t know what the job is. Supposedly he’s some sort of handyman/bodyguard to Keira Knightley (as a reclusive actress) (in retrospect I quite like the idea that the writer has obviously been thinking about Greta Garbo and other recluses and thought ‘I know! I bet they don’t know how to change a lightbulb! Let’s make Farrell a caretaker to the stars!’). However, the only work we see him do is make her cups of tea, and listen to David Thewlis droning on and on about not very much (I have absolutely no idea who he is in relation to Knightley. He’s very funny though, if possibly in completely the wrong film). So there are plenty of job opportunities out there, you just have to look. And Farrell’s got to look after his dippy dipsomaniac nymphomaniac sister (Anna Friel, unusually funny) (in a good way). Unfortunately for Farrell, he just can’t get away from the world of crime. But we know he’s a good bloke, because he’s friends with a homeless man, doesn’t like Ben Chaplin beating women up, and looks moderately perturbed when people say racist things (Winstone does this a lot; he also goes around axing people to death for fun). He is definitely A GOOD BLOKE (Farrell not Winstone – keep up). And guess what! Yes, Farrell and Knightley fall for each other, who’d have thought it? (Not that there’s any actual chemistry between the two, but money can’t buy everything.) It can buy some nice cars which Farrell gets to drive for no real reason other than they’ve got some nice cars which need to be driven.
    Will Farrell solve the murder? Will he be able to get away from Winstone? Will he live happily ever after making tea for Knightley? Will we be able to work out what accent he’s sporting?

    Ultimately it all degenerates into one of the most tepid bloodbaths you’re ever likely to encounter. We’re sadly used to people in films killing as if it’s just another part of a boring job, but even people dying in this film don’t seem all that bothered. Honestly, about six major cast members die at the end of this film and you’d be forgiven for not noticing.

    There are probably two different films going on here. One is the subplot involving Farrell and Knightley. This bit of the film wants to be simultaneously a study of the loneliness of celebrity (let down abominably by the hilarious scene in which Knightley goes to Boots on an aborted tampon mission) and a satire on the whole celebrity / paparazzi thing. Meanwhile, in the other bit of the film, we have Farrell being hooked into Winstone’s highly implausible gangster world (where you must say c**t a lot if you want to be taken seriously) and refusing all offers of promotion.
    The film is shot very prettily and London looks surprisingly rural at times (almost as if it was filmed in Windsor). And the actors all do decent if unexceptional jobs. Farrell has a funny voice (possibly meant to be a cockney accent) and swears a lot. Ben Chaplin has an even funnier voice and swears even more. Ray Winstone does his gangster thing (again) and swears a lot. Keira Knightley looks a bit glum and swears a lot. Anna Friel totters about comically and swears a lot. Sanjeev Bhasker plays a comedy Asian doctor, and Eddie Marsan is a dodgy policeman who behaves like a Mike Leigh reject. (They don’t swear much but that’s probably because most of their performances have been left in the cutting room, probably to their great relief.)
    The film is almost certainly a truncated version of a much larger whole. To be honest I don’t think it would have been better if it had been any longer. None of the plots are particularly interesting, and the characters aren’t amongst the most original committed to film. Good actors are wasted and the script has little to say about anything. (Just about the only decent line is when Keira Knightley points out that the job of the heroine is to listen to the hero talk about himself.) (Well, not in this film – she just has to drink the tea he makes her.)

    Better work than this is being done in Britain right now in this sort of genre, films like RISE AND FALL OF A WHITE COLLAR HOOLIGAN for example, and on a shoestring budget as well. Although I’ve been critical of films like GBH, at least that felt like the people making it were interested in it and enthusiastic about it. LONDON BOULEVARD feels like leftovers which have been reheated in a vague hope that we’ll gobble it up. This film is for people who desperately want to see Colin Farrell make tea for Keira Knightley (this isn’t a euphemism). Otherwise, steer clear.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s