10 July 2019 | CANpatbuck3664
An Unintentionally Funny Catastrophe
I'm not going to write much in the defence of London Fields (even though I gave it a 6/10, you'll understand why in the next paragraph) but when I review bad movies, I always start with the positives. I was intrigued by London Fields for around the first 10 minutes. The dialogue by our narrator Samson Young (Billy Bob Thorton) is heavy handed but they know how to setup a mystery. Its obvious that the story will have a different kind of slant to it (both by the beginning flash-forward and the bizarre notes about the current global climate within the story) and it caught my attention. The movie very quickly went off the rails with the introduction of Keith Talent (Jim Sturgess) and Guy Clinch (Theo James) but I have to admit, I was interested for a short period of time. The other note I'll make is that Amber Heard was appropriately cast as Nicola Six and she was trying so hard in this. She couldn't save this train wreck of a movie and I felt bad for her because of how desperate the team behind the camera are to remind you of how hot she is in every single moment she is on screen (I appreciated how beautiful she is but a lot of her steamy scenes border on porn and I doubt she consented to that). I wouldn't define this as an award-worthy performance but when the rest of the cast is so out of whack, she's at least playing in the appropriate area and she fits the part.
Some movies are made for the uninitiated and some are made for the fans. The plot in London Fields must require you to be familiar with the source material because it is so scatterbrained, I don't know if I could have wrapped my mind around it with a second viewing. London is in crisis, people have fled the city, are we offered a detailed explanation why? Nope, just go along with it. Our narrator Samson (a terminally ill writer) is dying of an unspecified illness but he's resigned and almost nonchalant about it. Why is he dying? Why is he okay with it? Never mind that. Why is he interacting with all the fictional characters in his new book? Why is he seen by some and ignored by others? How is Nicola able to see the future? If she's aware of what will happen, why doesn't she try to protect herself? There were answers offered to some of these questions but none were satisfying or made much sense. Compounding on this is the ridiculous dialogue which is okay at best and at worst just awful. I got plenty of laughs from this movie but I don't think any of them were on purpose.
The supporting cast is either at one end of the spectrum or the other. They're either underplaying it so badly that you can imagine them asking for their lines after every take or they're chewing the scenery with such an over-the-top bravado that it left me howling. On the under-performing side, we have Billy Bob Thorton, Theo James, Jaimie Alexander and Cara Delevigne (who is only in the movie for about 5-10 minutes). Thorton is a good actor when he's committed and while I'm almost certain he was directed to be this way, boredom radiates off his performance. He's sleepwalking through this and I don't think there was much he could do. Theo isn't a terrible actor but he's normally a little bland and this is definitely more of that. On the other side, we have Jim Sturgess, Jason Isaacs and Johnny Depp who are all swinging for the fences. Sturgess is overdoing his character in an epic sense here, I was laughing at him every time he was on screen. Between how ridiculously sleazy his character looks to his mind-blowing delivery, he was hitting Sean Penn from Gangster Squad levels in scenery chewing. We also have Depp in a pretty small role, he's at least fun in his small bits but its a lot like his shtick in Mortdecai where its too cartoony to even be in the same ballpark as reality. We also have Isaacs in voice over, he's so sly and scummy in this that his voice is the embodiment of the cat who ate the canary. There's only 1 other movie that I can think of that features such a wide range of laughable stuff from the cast (I'll be talking about it in the closing paragraph to this review).
I started out laughing, then I slipped into being dumbfounded and by the end, I was a mix of being in awe and snickering under my breath. The twists and character motivations in this movie are so hard to determine even though if you diagrammed the plot, it would be so simple. Through the perspective of Samson, there was a lot of potential to really play with the style the movie was being filmed with (e.g. the movie Limitless where we see the effects of the drug) with Samson drifting in an out of sanity or "the real world." But while the movie isn't without any style, there's very little here that's going to be memorable or that's going to catch your eye. I know the budget was modest but if you don't have the material to carry the movie, do something else that's going to elevate it.
The behind-the-scenes notes about London Fields paint an accurate picture of how much of a misfire this is. But I couldn't turn away from the screen or even stop giggling at the gigantic mess London Fields is. I think this would make a great so-bonkers-its-good double feature with the 2018 release Terminal. Both feature a stylized attempt at noir with some Guy Ritchie style sprinkled in and they both miss the boat completely. Both feature a gorgeous and talented lead actress who are trying their best but the movie drags them down like anchor tied around their ankles. Both feature a supporting cast that is so all-over-the-place that you can't pin them down as disinterested or way too committed. Lastly, they also both have an ending twist that attempts to shock the viewer and doesn't quite get there (admittedly though Terminal wins this category hands down). Terminal is the better movie but London Heights made me laugh more. I'm sorry that Heard and Depp were fighting constantly while this was going on but London Fields falls into the so-bad-its-entertaining category for me. If I were a real critic and I had to grade this seriously, this is a 3/10 but I'm bumping it up to a 6/10 for the entertainment value I got out of it.