Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed
) made his directorial debut with this propulsive and stylish UK crime thriller, with Colin Farrell as the latest in a long line of moody ex-cons who can't seem to stay away from the illegal side of life. Farrell's Mitchel, a bruiser with his heart on his sleeve, is fresh from a three-year stint in lockup, but already back in low-rent schemes with his old pal Ben Chaplin. His rough-hewn but gentlemanly ways earn him a gig as a bodyguard for actress Keira Knightley, who needs protection from swarms of paparazzi. We are asked to believe that the pair's relationship soon blossoms into romance, but it lacks any palpable chemistry, despite the enormous charisma of both performers. Instead, the film's most interesting relationships are the secondary ones: Farrell locks horns with Ray Winstone's sharp-dressed gangster, who wants Mitchel under his employ at any cost, as well as David Thewlis as Knightley's venomous sycophant and Anna Friel as Mitchel's breezily wanton sister. The various character trajectories cross paths or crash in ways most crime fans have seen in dozens of previous pictures; there's very little new in London Boulevard
, but the solid cast does most of the heavy lifting, leaving Monahan to simply keep up the pace at a decent clip while exercising his penchant for stylized lighting and vintage rock & roll (Monahan clearly took notes while working with Martin Scorsese, as evidenced by a soundtrack full of maximum R&B tracks by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Pretty Things/Electric Banana, and Kasabian). Extras are limited to a standard-issue making-of featurette, in which Monahan discusses the influence of '60s-era UK films like Blow-Up
on his feature. --Paul Gaita
The directorial debut of William Monahan, the Oscar®-winning screenwriter of The Departed
, London Boulevard
follows an ex-con trying to make a fresh start in a relationship with a reclusive actress. A sexy, stylish gangster thriller bristling with wit and brutal intrigue, London Boulevard stars Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley as star-crossed lovers who run afoul of one of London’s most vicious crime bosses.