William Monahan's 2010 directorial debut, London Boulevard, now available on DVD, is a fast paced thriller-romance mash up with a fine cast of talented actors. Given the pedigrees of those involved—Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone, David Thewlis and half a dozen others, not to mention Monahan himself, after all the man had won an Oscar for the screenplay of The Departed and now he was directing his own screenplay adapted from a Ken Bruen novel—expectations were great. Unfortunately, sometimes with great expectations you wind up disappointed. London Boulevard is by no means a bad film, it's just not as good as you want it to be.
Farrell plays a gangland tough newly released from prison. He is looking to go straight, but just when you think you're out of it, they drag you back in, at least they try. His screw up buddy (Ben Chaplin) is working as a collector for a vicious crime boss (Winstone) who wants to recruit Farrell, but obviously the tough as nails Farrell has other ideas. He gets himself a job of sorts acting as a kind of bodyguard for a depressed movie star (Knightley) hounded by a gaggle of camera toting paparazzi, and the plot moves back and forth between the Winstone's machinations and Knightley's charms. There's plenty of violence, just a bit of nudity, a wonderful musical score, and a good deal of beautiful photography in and around London.
The problem is there is too much going on—much more than can be developed adequately in an hour and a half. Farrell has a nutty sister spaced out on drugs and alcohol (Anna Friel) who does a nice job wearing sexy costumes, but whose function in the context of the larger plot is tenuous. David Thewlis is a kind of hippie enabler for the dysfunctional Knightley. He embodies world weariness but never gets truly fleshed out as a character. Moreover as good an actor as he is, his sudden turn into a tough is a mite unconvincing. There is also a sub-plot about a murdered homeless man, who for some unexplained reason is important to Farrell.