I used to think Colin Farrell was mainly good at playing dopes like his characters in Cassandra’s Dream and In Brugge. But after this year’s Fright Night remake and his role as a repentant gangster just out of prison (yeah, I rolled my eyes at that, too) in London Boulevard, I’m coming around to appreciating him as a badass.
For the most part, London Boulevard is a typical British gangster movie, complete with dialects incomprehensible to some of us who actually speak English. It was directed by American screenwriter William Monahan, whose main claim to fame is the script for Scorcese’s remake of Infernal Affairs, The Departed. The less said about that, the better. But in London Boulevard, Monahan does an intriguing job of putting Hollywood into a movie that’s thousands of miles from Hollywood.
As a director, he’s sometimes too “stylish” for his own good, but at least Monahan has a screenwriter’s attention to characters. When Farrell produces a formidable looking revolver and asks David Thewlis, who plays a burned-out actor, how he feels about guns, savor the perfection of this response as Thewlis gingerly but confidently takes up the gun:
My dear boy, I am a trained actor. I can feel anything about anything.
Thewlis snaps it open, takes out the bullets, and stands them on the table like a row of soldiers.
You took it from a passing philosopher, I imagine?
Whatever London Boulevard’s failings, it’s a cast of solid actors playing memorable characters with smart dialogue, including Thewlis, Ray Winstone, and Keira Knightly doing what they do best: basically, their usual roles. Props to Kiera Knightly for playing herself here, as a wigged out celebrity trying to retreat from her own celebrity. She has a scene in which she talks about how awful women’s parts are in movies, and you can’t help but suspect that’s what she’s doing here. Or is it? Ben Chaplin, who normally plays buttoned up English types, is deliciously unkempt and unctuous. And it takes a great cast to leave next to nothing for Eddie Marsan and Stephen Graham to do.
Also, what a fabulous soundtrack, including vintage Brit-rock and a retro/Radiohead hybrid group called Kasabian that I’ve since fallen in love with. The Kasabian song that plays over the conclusion of London Boulevard makes it one of my favorite movie endings of the year.