The gift William Monahan gets from the gods for winning his Departed-screenplay Oscar, this bristly Brit noir has a slick and dazzling chassis, from the Tarantino-esque opening credits to the Yardbirds songs to the torrent of East End profanity. The story, from Ken Bruen’s book, is in the end a little less substantial, a small-boned saga about an ex-con (Colin Farrell) looking to skirt the low life and stay clean, and landing an ill-defined job as Man Friday to an agoraphobic, paparazzi-besieged actress (Keira Knightley). Thanks to her wealth and unused luxury cars, our hero is pressured by underworld types, in particular Ray Winstone as the requisite soft-spoken psychopathic crime boss, to loot the premises. Monahan rather deftly conjures a novelistic raft of characters—David Thewlis as the actress’s dope-addled assistant, Ben Chaplin as Farrell’s sleazy Johnny Boy buddy, Anna Friel as a bipolar ditz, Eddie Marsan as a bent copper, etc.—but unfortunately also a novelistic slackness of purpose. Farrell’s brooder only wants peace—if he loves Knightley’s skeleton princess, he’s not saying—and Winstone’s rhino only wants Farrell as a henchman, so when he’s turned down, corpses pile up. So? A movie of 5,000 lit cigs, Monahan’s debut has verve and charisma, but, in the end, the tension of a late-night pub shrug.
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