Starring: Riz Ahmed, Billie Piper, James Floyd
Directed By: Pete Travis
Running Time: 110 Minutes
UK Release Date: April 7th 2017
BBFC Certificate: 15
From the director (or co-director depending on what you read) of the excellent Dredd (2012) comes a modern day detective noir set in present day London. Riz Ahmed leads this film as Tommy Akhtar; a chain smoking and hard drinking private detective trying to solve the mystery of a missing woman.
As per most noir thrillers, things are never as they seem as Tommy is led down a murky path which involves property developers, the police, an international anti-terrorist organisation, a Muslim youth group, and a mix between well-played and wooden characters along the way.
The film plays out like a tick list of generic movie tropes and if you have seen either Chinatown (1974), LA Confidential (1997) or any of the detective noirs churned out by Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s then you know what to expect: and as such you may perceive this film as a well thought out homage to a genre that hasn’t made much noise since Brick (2005).
And like Brick this film utilises its setting, which in this case is a seedy modern day London. Tommy is a second generation Pakistani and the story touches on multi-cultural integration, but thankfully the film doesn’t go too much into stereotyping its characters or locations. Overall this adds a gritty realism to the movie as most of these people and areas have been ignored by the powers that be and as such illegal activities such as prostitution and drug dealing are commonplace.
Without going too much into it, Tommy’s search leads him to the Muslim Youth Group who are just trying to make their part of London cleaner and safer, but this adds a level of paranoia in a post 7/7 world. There is also a sense of distrust of authority with several characters partaking in illegal activities, but then again this is London.
We also have two characters from Tommy’s past return, and all three are intertwined by a tragic event that occurred almost 15 years ago, which is told throughout the film via flashback. This past event adds depth to the characters and their relationships with each other, but in my opinion the outcome is obvious and some of these flashbacks should have been removed as it unnecessarily drags out the film and breaks the tension.
But one thing that makes this movie work is its stand out performance from rising star Riz Ahmed, who completely owns this film and I would like to see the continuing adventures of Tommy Akhtar.
Unfortunately less can be said for the characters from Tommy’s past, as Billie Piper’s Shelley appears to be forever stuck in grief from the events of yesteryear, and James Floyd’s Lovely is mostly forgettable. Maybe the above didn’t have a lot to work with but their younger counterparts are well cast and there is a lot of humour from the supporting characters.
The cinematography from Felix Wiedemann gives the film an otherworldly quality and utilises the neon landscape well, and the soundtrack hits the right notes when required.
So what we have is what I expected: a modern day noir thriller with plenty of twists and a great lead from Riz Ahmed. However it feels more like a 2 part TV drama which may put off some viewers, but go and see it if you are a fan of the genre and like to see the not so familiar sights of London on the big screen.
Overall Verdict: Riz Ahmed shines in this predictable but entertaining urban thriller which is a great entry to the film noir genre.
Reviewer: George Elcombe