<i>London Boulevard</i>
Keira Knightley as Charlotte and Colin Farrell as Mitchel in London Boulevard
(Credit: © Laurie Sparham)

With an intriguing plot, fantastic cast and enough on-screen style to power 10 movies, it’s a bit of a mystery how the sum of London Boulevard – from first-time director William Monahan – doesn’t quite live up to the value of each of its individual parts.

The film follows reformed criminal Mitchel (Colin Farrell), who has just been released from prison and who is intent on staying away from falling back under the influence of his con-man friend, Billy (a gloriously sleazy Ben Chaplin). Even though Mitchel is thrown a party after his release, as well as offered a place to stay, he refuses. He no longer wants to use crime as a way to pay for his lifestyle, and this is respectable.

He’s still protective and kind of a badass, though, and we see this early on in the film when he punches out a guy for making out with his slutty sister, Briony (Anna Friel). It is clear from the start that Mitchel, despite his past, is full of good intentions; and we like this about him.

As we move further into London Boulevard, we find out a little bit more about Mitchel: He’s good friends with a bum who lives under a bridge and is being pursued for employment by Billy’s boss, Gant (the always amazing Ray Winstone), who is equal parts scary and classy. Mitchel doesn’t want anything to do with this situation, so instead settles into a job as a bodyguard of sorts for an extremely reclusive young actress (Keira Knightley), who is afraid to leave the house but whose portrait is splayed across almost every square inch of London proper. Mitchel may or may not be falling for her; and when he reports for work on a daily basis, he shares interesting conversation with her housemate (lover? brother? friend? It’s never really made clear), Jordan, played with kooky finesse by Harry Potter alum and gifted character actor David Thewlis.

Sure, this is Monahan’s freshman directing effort, however, the Boston native has cut his teeth in the screenplay department with such fare as The Departed, Body of Lies and Edge of Darkness. But the film’s writing and directing aren’t the problem. Nor is the film’s stellar lineup of actors; or the overall look and feel of the film, which is set in the back alleys (and on the windy roads) of London.

Perhaps the piece of the film that keeps it from being a complete success is the part that involves the semi-budding relationship between Mitchel and Charlotte (Knightley), which comes across as superfluous and somewhat unconvincing from the get-go. It seems that Mitchel is on the road to reformation with or without the Charlotte detour; and honestly, the film might have been a bit more exciting and tightly wound without it.

London Boulevard releases in select theaters Nov. 18.

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