Directed by: #MathewCullen
Based on the novel of the same name by Martin Amis (who helped draft the screenplay), London Fields introduces us to Samson Young (Billy Bob Thornton), who has swapped his small New York apartment with that of another more successful writer (Jason Isaacs) in London to try and find some inspiration and an end to his twenty years of writers block.
Arriving in a destitute and near-apocalyptic London Town, he encounters the horrendously uncouth local loudmouth and premier darts player, Keith Talent (Jim Sturgess), as well as the frustrated and stuck-up posh sap, Guy Clinch (Theo James). But the centre point around which they orbit is Nicola Six (Amber Heard), a clairvoyant femme fatale who has foreseen her own death on her upcoming birthday, coincidentally at the hands of one of these three gentlemen. Samson, sensing a great story to make his name, convinces Nicola to allow him to chronicle the events as they unfold for his next novel.
Many have said this book was unadaptable and based on what is on display here, that is completely true. The film had a very troubled production. David Cronenberg was signed on in 2001 to direct but left the film. It was pulled from the Toronto Film Festival at the last minute in 2015 due to a lawsuit between director Mathew Cullen and the producers over the final edit and pay, not to mention other legal battles between Heard and the producers, with the director and cast now having distanced themselves from the film entirely.
Unfortunately, none of this drama could transfer to the project itself. The backdrop for Mathew Cullen’s London Fields is a London engulfed in anarchy, with riots in the streets and explosions going off left, right and centre.
But despite its frantic and intriguing setting, London Fields is not only boring, but ultimately confusing and a drag to watch.
There are attempts at creating a thrilling, #noir classic here that just don’t pay off. Over-scored, monotonous character pieces are merged with footage of riots, war and missiles exploding, aimlessly moving from one bewildering scene to the next until the films honestly predictable and unsatisfying conclusion.
On paper, the names on this cast list would seem to be enough to pull together something interesting from the novel that could be argued is Amis’ best work, however no one seems to make it out of this one unscathed. Heard is reduced to strutting around as a lingerie model for majority of the film, using her guile to seduce each man in turn relentlessly, although it is never fully clear why. Thornton and James are as bland as they come, and Thornton has a constant expression of an actor who knows this film is in trouble. Even a cameo from Depp doesn’t manage to salvage anything, instead being remembered for a gross and awkward encounter with now ex-wife Heard.
But the worst, by a mile, is undoubtedly Sturgess’ horrific and at times nauseating turn as darts prodigy Keith Talent. With a cockney accent that is stuck between bad impressions of Jason Statham and Danny Dyer, as well as a constant facial expression that looks like he is suffering severely from some sort of allergy, this is an over-the-top performance for the ages.
“This is a true story, but I can’t believe this is happening” Not only the opening line to London Fields, but also the sentiment you might be feeling as you trudge through this film, waiting for it all to end.