Monday, November 14, 2011

Movie with Abe: London Boulevard

London Boulevard
Directed by William Monahan
Released November 11, 2011

Gangster movies have a distinctive feel, yet there are a number of different types of films that fall under that category. Perhaps one of the most memorable in recent years is “The Departed,” which offered a stylized take focused on characters, both good and bad, either trapped in or trapping others in, the mob life in Boston. After penning the screenplay for that film and for the Ridley Scott action thriller “Body of Lies,” William Monahan now presents his directorial debut, which moves over to London and showcases a similar tale about one particularly smooth mobster trying to get out of the game. It’s an enthralling, moody film that may not be terrific but is still immensely watchable.

What distinguishes “London Boulevard” most from other films like it is a spectacular ensemble. The usually excitable Colin Farrell is reserved and effortlessly cool as Mitchel, recently released from jail and finding himself pulled back to the old life he no longer desires to be a part of following his time spent inside. Keira Knightley takes a subtle and seductive role as a withdrawn actress pursued endlessly by paparazzi, and David Thewlis provides a good deal of the film’s comic relief as her companion and confidante Jordan. Eddie Marsan and Anna Friel have fun small parts as a corrupt cop and Mitchel’s promiscuous sister, respectively, and the role of hardened mob boss Gant is wisely saved for “Departed” and “Sexy Beast” star Ray Winstone. The cast is clearly having fun, and that makes the film enjoyable without diminishing its seriousness.

Mitchel is quickly established as both an endearing and intimidating figure, firmly positioned as the hero in the story. He explains that, were he to actually immerse himself in the gangster life, he wouldn’t be able to stop, and therefore he’s chosen not to be a gangster any longer. The conversations between the non-gangster characters, including Mitchel, are frank and honest, and people actually say what they mean, which is refreshing. The screenplay, based on Ken Bruen’s novel and adapted by Monahan, is smart and full of wit, enabling a fully entertaining cinematic experience. The film does lose some steam towards it end, choosing to wrap up its plotlines in a somewhat removed fashion, making them feel fleeting. That’s not to say that everything else up until that point is invalid, but rather that it loses its lasting impact, leaving the film enjoyable but not entirely memorable.


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