Wednesday, March 20, 2019

London Fields

London Fields is a flawed but ambitious film that struggles mightily with adapting the 1989 novel of the same name for the big screen. The film's biggest strength is Amber Heard, cast in the role femme fatale Nicola Six who toys with men's affections for her own selfish gratification and amusement. Despite the film's many failings, Heard's performance isn't one of them nor is the cinematography of Guillermo Navarro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and Pacific Rim) who so lovingly frames the beautiful star on-screen. Semi-clairvoyant, Nicola knows the time and place of her death (but not the identity of her killer).

Our other main character is American novelist Samson Young (Billy Bob Thornton) in London attempting to find inspiration for one more novel. Immediately buying into her tale, Samson convinces Nicola to let the author tell her story. Like with Heard, Thornton is put to relatively good use (although the scripting of the noir voiceover fails him at times - but also provides one of the film's more clever moments as the film pauses to allow Samson to rewrite a scene).

Theo James and Jim Sturgess provide potentials suitors, and marks, for the conniving Nicola, and the two leading suspects for her impending murder. Sturgess' tale also brings in Johnny Depp in a subplot about loan sharks and dart championships where the film goes completely off the rails. I don't know how integral the subplot is to the novel, but other than providing some context to Sturgess' character (the weakest of the film) it seems like the entirety of it could have been dropped without missing a beat.

While Heard is in frame, director Mathew Cullen can hide the script's flaws, but the further London Fields moves from its star the quicker things begin to fall apart. A flop both critically and commercially, with lawsuits and disputes over the final cut of the film, there's something of interest here (even if only as a curiosity or guilty pleasure of sorts for fans of Heard who seems cursed with being born into a generation well-past the age of a femme fatale who that can't quite figure out what to do with her). In another era, Heard could have become a far bigger star. Released only on DVD, London Fields earns a bare-bones release including on the film's trailer.

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