In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb incredibles 2

Incredibles 2

This is a smart, beautiful, fun family film. In other words, exactly what we want from Pixar.

Thumb tag poster

Tag

A lazy, vulgar celebration of White Male American Dumbness.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Journal Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

London Road

London Road Movie Review
  |  

"London Road," based on the stage musical of the same name, is one of those promising ideas that never becomes a whole lot more than a promising idea, despite an extraordinary expenditure of effort by all involved.

The concept certainly is unusual: writer Alecky Blythe and composer Adam Cork retell the story of the so-called Ipswich Ripper or Suffolk Strangler, who terrorized an area near London Road in 2006 and was found guilty two years later of murdering five prostitutes; but rather than devise a "Sweeney Todd"-type, sung-through musical with original lyrics arranged in a traditional style, the musical's creators interviewed real life residents and transcribed their statements verbatim, including "ums," then wedded these documentary statements to music.

Advertisement

The film version is directed by Rufus Norris, who helmed the original stage production of "London Road" for the Royal National Theater. Although every frame of it is suffused with energy and sprightly intentions, it ultimately doesn't add up to much. In fact, at its worst, the direction is a compendium of stylistic cliches of early 21st-century filmmaking, including widescreen images bled of color and sometimes composed in deliberately off-center or unbalanced ways. These are the sorts of choices that a stage director makes when he is adapting a dark modern musical for film and has technique but no actual vision. It's toolkit filmmaking.

And—although I'm hesitant to guess about this because I have never seen this musical on stage—I would imagine that seeing this story unfold beneath a proscenium arch would tend to minimize the artificiality of the construct rather than foreground it. The latter is unfortunately the case with the movie version, a slate-colored ensemble shot on location with key participants or "witnesses" often posed like figures in a TV news interview or an old-fashioned documentary film.

As verbatim statements that have been chopped into fragments are layered over each other in the manner of an Andrew Lloyd Webber act-ending showstopper, residents of London Road compete with the media in breathlessly narrating the story, wondering if this person or that person is "actually" the killer, and walk the streets feeling justifiably or unjustifiably terrified. Unfortunately, none of the characters on screen really ever come alive; the citizens, the reporters and everyone else remain a largely indistinguishable mass even as paranoia mounts. And the fact that the production takes such a long time rousing itself to care about the killer's victims and the area's surviving sex workers gives the entire project a whiff of upper middle-class dilettantism.

The excellent cast includes Tom Hardy in a cameo as a cab driver, who insists that his thorough knowledge of serial killers and their habits doesn't make him a suspect. But they all ultimately seem as if they are participating in a dubious enterprise, devised by gifted individuals who somehow can't take a big picture view of a story that would seem to demand one. "London Road" is brilliant in all the wrong ways.

Popular Blog Posts

Five Ways to Save Star Wars

The suggestions in this article are worth 10 billion dollars.

Netflix’s The Staircase is Your True-Crime Obsession for the Summer

A review of the new Netflix series The Staircase.

Dark Souls Remastered Wants to Make You Cry This Summer

A review of Dark Souls Remastered, a game so good it will make you cry.

Thumbnails Special Edition: Where Are Our Diverse Voices in Film Criticism

A special edition of Thumbnails spotlighting the efforts being made to amplify diverse voices in film criticism follo...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus