• Review: London Road (2016)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Thu Sep 8 14:03:41 2016
    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: A musical with unusual subject matter was
    commissioned by the British National Theatre and then
    adapted by almost the same cast and crew into this
    movie version. The residents of London Road in
    Ipswich, England, are gripped by fear and paranoia after
    five naked corpses of prostitutes have been found on
    their little road. All of the action takes place
    off-screen except for the reactions of the people only
    involved because it happened on their street. The dialog
    is taken from interviews in the three years after the
    murder and the neighborhood buries their horror by all
    getting involved in a neighborhood-wide hobby. The first
    third of the film lives up to the promise of the concept,
    but what follows is a very English reaction on the road
    and it will likely not enthrall US audiences. Rating:
    low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

    A quiet, unexceptional road in Ipswich is rocked by the finding of
    the bodies of five prostitutes who had been brutally murdered. The
    retelling of the events of the true crime and the reaction on the
    road was adapted into a very successful stage play with a twist.
    The locals' actual accounts of the incident were adapted to musical
    form. That musical had two sell-out runs at the British National
    Theatre. The musical play was nominated for four Laurence Olivier
    Awards and has now been adapted by its stage director Rufus Norris
    into a film. As on the stage, Alecky Blythe provided book and
    lyrics and Adam Cork contributed music and lyrics. It fact most of
    the actors and crew are directly taken from the successful stage

    The idea of taking a startling crime and turning it into a stage
    musical brings back memories of "Sweeney Todd." Sadly, unlike that
    play this film carefully avoids all the possible thrills in their
    telling. The subject matter is not the crime itself, but the
    reaction of the residents of London Road. In fact, we are never
    even told how the criminal was caught. The perpetrator is caught
    about a third the way into the film and most of the rest of the
    story is how the street residents decide to give their road a good
    name by cleaning the local yards up and having everyone competing
    to have the most beautiful flower-filled garden. The film
    culminates in the road's flower festival where awards are given for
    the nicest gardens. To an American it seems a very British
    reaction to seek solace in making their gardens grow. American
    audiences would and the other extreme and would want at least two
    car chases and a look at the victims' bodies. The music of this
    musical in large part is injected by having characters speak in
    singsong voices. There is no melody anybody in the audience is
    going to want to be humming.

    The American viewer longs for the early moments of the film when
    people were saying anybody could be the killer and "everybody's
    very, very nervous," and the story might have gone into s Rod-
    Serling-ish "The Monsters Are Due on London Road." There are not
    many light moments unless they are just looking at some of the
    stranger personalities. There is a moment or two of levity
    watching a newscaster who is not allowed to say the word "sperm"
    and cannot think of an alternative.

    Cinematographer Danny Cohen has some nice photo studies of paranoid
    faces. His photography early in the film seems to have the feel of
    a perpetually overcast sky that clears up in time for the end of
    the film and the flower festival.

    Perhaps to add a little marquee value the film has one fairly
    recognizable actor, Tom Hardy. He has only a small part but he is
    a flavor of the month after making films like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD,

    The biggest problem with the film is that so soon in the film it
    loses all of its tension and goes flaccid. After that the only
    thing people are nervous about is getting up on the stage at the
    flower festival. Viewers looking for suspense and excitement will
    be disappointed. I rate LONDON ROAD a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale
    or 5/10. LONDON ROAD went into a limited American release on
    September 7, 2016.

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    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper

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