Colin Farrell stars as an ex-con with underworld ties, and said underworld ties are trying to get him reacquainted with them. Farrell tries to resist, however, and lands a gig as a handyman and all-round bodyguard to a famous actress, played by a little-known actress by the name of Keira Knightley (she’s got a bright future ahead of her let me tell you). Apparently the poor lass is in hiding after some kind of meltdown/breakdown living in her mansion with a drugged-out actor companion (David Thewlis) her only company. Well, unless you count the throng of scum-sucking paparazzi outside. Ben Chaplin plays a shifty old acquaintance of Farrell’s whom he helps out on shakedowns from time to time, but swears he will never completely go back into the old ‘business’. Notorious gangster Ray Winstone, however does everything within his mighty power to reel Farrell back in. ‘No’ isn’t a word that this guy is used to hearing. Meanwhile, a romance develops between Farrell and Knightley. Sanjeev Bhaskar plays a surgeon whom Farrell befriends, whilst Anna Friel plays Farrell’s flighty sister whom the good doctor hooks up with, amusingly. Eddie Marsan plays a slimy crooked cop, always lurking around.
I hadn’t heard much about it beforehand, and I don’t believe it was a great financial or critical success, but this 2010 crime pic from debutant director William Monahan (writer of “The Departed”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, and “Body of Lies”) and his co-writer Matt Sherring, is definitely worth a look if you initially missed it. More drama than crime flick at times, but it also surprised me with how funny it is at times. It could use some plot clarity but also some pruning to the running time, perhaps contradictorily. The plot just seems a little ungainly and disjointed at times, and I’m not sure it was wise to hire an ex-crim to look after a publicity-shy movie star. But otherwise, this is a good film that really ought to be more well-known, especially given the names in the cast.
The acting is particularly top-notch here and is worth seeing the film for. This is definitely one of the better roles of Colin Farrell’s recent career (he’s terrific at playing ne’er do wells), and although ostensibly the film’s good guy, he’s still got a real way with violence, as one poor sod finds out when he gets up close and personal with a beer glass. Ouch. I’ve lately been rediscovering my love for Keira Knightley, first forged during “Love Actually”. The bangs aren’t remotely flattering, but I just find it hard to keep my eyes off the girl. You just can’t teach charisma, folks, and her very casting in this role is frankly bloody priceless. She gets one great speech in particular where she talks about the roles women get in movies, that rings depressingly true.
The real delights, though, are found in the supporting cast, especially Ray Winstone, David Thewlis, and an almost unrecognisable Ben Chaplin. Ray Winstone excels at this kind of nasty, powerful crim character like just about no other. He’s so impressive and intimidating that even Eddie Marsan (sleazy as hell) finds himself trembling in fear of him. The brilliant thing is that he doesn’t ever really explode. He doesn’t need to, he’s instantaneously intimidating (the audience certainly knows he means business, because we’ve seen what Winstone’s other characters have been like) and thus no one will fuck with him...except Farrell, who doesn’t give a shit how hard Winstone thinks he is. They have one very memorable dinner scene together showing just this dynamic. David Thewlis, as a seriously strung-out actor, is having the time of his life stealing scenes and getting all the best lines like ‘If it wasn’t for Monica Bellucci, she’d be the most raped woman in European cinema’. But even his very first moment on screen was inexplicably funny to me. A really underrated actor, I’ve thought so since he stole the show in “Dragonheart”. I’ve never liked Ben Chaplin before, but he’s revelatory here as a truly dumb arse, untrustworthy little turd. His fear of Winstone is very, very funny stuff, but also very, very understandable. He’s a scary dude, that Ray Winstone, and this is undoubtedly Chaplin’s best-ever performance.
The smaller turns by Sanjeev Bhaskar and Anna Friel as the doctor and Farrell’s sister are also terrific. Bhaskar is likely the last familiar face you’d expect to find in something like this, and that just made me smile even more.
The film itself has an old-school British crime flick and flavour about it that I rather liked. The opening prison-set scene kinda reminded me of the underrated, taciturn Oliver Reed film “Sitting Target”, and you’ll have “Get Carter” and “Long Good Friday” vibes at other times. The locales and soundtrack are both important contributors as well. If you like your Yardbirds, you’ll like what this film has to offer (The Stones’ ‘Stray Cat Blues’ is also featured). Meanwhile, the paparazzi are hilariously awful bottom-feeders here, perhaps an accurate description, perhaps not.
I’m not sure why this film has been somewhat overlooked, it’s an enjoyable, retro British gangster pic with a leaning towards drama, and extremely well-acted by a terrific cast. It’s a good yarn.