Colin Farrell must not be as hot with American audiences as he used to be. At least, that’s the only reason I can see for London Boulevard not receiving a proper theatrical release in the United States. Picked up almost a year after it was released in its native Great Britain, the movie shuffled its way through theaters during one of those dreaded “limited engagement” sort of things, only to receive a low-key debut on home video three months later. Now, when you stop to compare it with many of the other feature films from the UK — mostly starring English export Jason Statham — it’s easy to see why this one didn’t fare well with the public: it’s decent.
Speaking of Statham, London Boulevard is based off of a novel by writer Ken Bruen, whose story Blitz was made into a feature film starring Statham in 2011. Here, Farrell plays a feller named Harry Mitchel (one “L” — and not to be confused with a Joe Don Baker character or the former US Representative from Arizona), who is released from prison at the beginning of the flick and intends to go straight from thereon in. Yeah, it’s not the most original way to open a moving picture, I admit, and Mitchel does his best to walk on the right side of the tracks. Unfortunately, it’s just not in the cards for the boy: his old colleague and pal, Billy (Ben Chaplin), is determined to get him back in action, and a vicious local crime boss (Ray Winstone) is even more resolute about doing the same — though the latter option would definitely be the worst one.
Every cloud has a silver lining, of course. While his former fellow felons attempt to recruit the ex-criminal, Mr. Mitchel goes to work for a withdrawn, well-known actress/model named Charlotte (Keira Knightley, another name that causes a number of American moviegoers to groan for some reason unbeknownst to me). Hounded by paparazzi night and day, Charlotte’s plight appeals to Harry — as does her recent separation from her “fuck-wit” of a husband. The great David Thewlis co-stars in a delightful bit as Knightley’s in-house protector, Anna Friel portrays Farrell’s drug-addict sister, Eddie Marsan plays a corrupt cop, and Sanjeev Bhaskar is also a hoot as a hip ER physician in this enjoyable, often gritty slice of neo-noir.
Strangely enough this British-made crime drama was written, directed, and co-produced by American screenwriter William Monahan, who made a huge impact on cinema with The Departed in 2006 — but who hasn’t done much in the way of “extremely noteworthy” since. It’s a pity, too, as what he has done here with London Boulevard might not be Oscar (or BAFTA) worthy, but it’s significantly better than most of the crap I’ve seen as of late that depict guys brandishing a handgun on the cover (artwork which probably won’t prompt some of you to take a look at it, but don‘t let it discourage you). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment takes you to London Boulevard via a beautiful video transfer with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that delivers. Special features are limited to a making-of featurette and a handful of trailers.
In short: London Boulevard is a decent flick. I’m not sure what my fellow Yanks have against Colin Farrell, but his presence here is a commanding one — perhaps even worthy of you giving him a second chance. Enjoy the soundtrack if nothing else.