Director: Juan Carlos Medina. Original Book : Peter Ackroyd
Starring: Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke, Eddie Marsan, Douglas Booth, Daniel Mays. UK. 1h 49m
Lessons can be learnt from this gloomy victorian epic, it has all of right elements but it just lacks that little je ne c’est quoi. Characters fall flat and the mystery becomes boring and repetitive. Within the elaborate stages and cliche back streets of London, before the time of Jack the Ripper there was the Limehouse Golem, a mysterious killer who slaughtered at will for his audience.
John Kildare (Nighy) is thrown at the case as the powers that be believe the killer can’t be found, so he’s the fall guy, so without any backup and being dangled in front of the media and disapproving public he is forced into action, sparing their prized detective for other simpler cases, but Kildare jumps into the case, almost becoming obsessed; using his brilliant meticulous mind and working with his close friend Officer Flood (Mays) the two are an alternative Holmes and Watson.
Flood arrives on the case immediately after arresting an actress, Lizzie (Cooke) for poisoning her playwright husband, but the two cases become entwined. Kildare steps closer to the Golem while gaining valuable information from lengthy talks with the (ex) stage star Lizzie, but the uninspired talks that flashback Lizzies dull rise to stardom leads Kildare running down many a dead end but he researches each one by cross checking the handwriting with a note left by the killer, these scenes are quite impressive as each one acts out a particular crime in a dreamlike style but Kildare’s need to rule these secondary characters which include a terrible Karl Marx, but he slowly eliminates the suspects until there is one final plot twist..
At times between Lizzies over emphasized london accented ramblings there are extremely brief shots of desperate slashings, but for a gorey murder mystery there isn’t much murder. Medina has a strict formula Lizzie reveals another chapter of her life which highlights how another person might be the Golem, Kildare dashes off to find the person, and insists on the handwriting, imagines them killing someone and doesn’t believe it and goes back to Lizzie for more scandals and sob stories. Most characters all blend into the background and there is no development, so much about the film is what you see is what you get, which is a terrible injustice as Kildare’s character seems to be brimming with potential, hints of his homosexuality and an affair are just about visible, where does he come from, how is he so brilliant, how does he know Flood so well?
Horror fans are also robbed of killings, all of the killings have happened, and we are left to just deal with that as a fact and a few seconds of kill scenes, there’s not even a hint of danger, we even have to take the location for granted, we are told it is london but we don’t see anything that really makes us feel as if we’re in London.
The film is tepid at its very best, Nighy is stunning when he is given the opportunity to act and the legendary Marsan is only given a single scene to really shine as the perverted character called Uncle who likes a spanking, the style is layered on so thickly that it blends into one dark scene with no detail, overall it feels as if Medina stumbled on turning this stylish thriller into cinema magic, the richness is dulled in the dried grease paint, but for a new director it’s not a terrible attempt but for now it’s style over substance.
R: From Hell (2001). My Cousin Rachel (2017)
L: Jack the Ripper Movies, Victorian Films, Serial Killer Flicks
5s: Bill Nighy