[box cover]

London

Anglophiles may be disappointed when they find out that Hunter Richards' debut feature is not, in fact, an ode to the exciting English capital. However, the accompanying gloom of such thwarted expectations amounts to a mere fraction of the grievances due the alienating New York-based drama London (2005). Chris Evans stars as Syd, a brooding and narcissistic (but otherwise nondescript) young man who momentarily breaks out of his six-month, self-medicated post-breakup depression just long enough to score some more cocaine and crash his ex-girlfriend's going-away party. He drags with him the reluctant coke courier, Bateman (Jason Statham), who protests that his own deep psychological scars may not hold against the pressures of fast Manhattan society. Syd and Bateman hole up in the party's swank bathroom and indulge in profanity-laden cock-and-bull therapy (while ingesting enough cocaine and booze to make an Allman Brothers Band roadie curl up and weep), occasionally joined by immodest party girls (Joy Bryant and Kelli Garner), and periodically interrupted by flashbacks to the golden minutes of Syd's idealized relationship with the now departing London (Jessica Biel). If it weren't so dull and earnest, London may be mistaken for a sharp parody of New York's young, upper class, over-drugged and sexed-out, self-absorbed and sociopathic party set — a crowd that, if not debasing themselves in the fashionable lofts of Manhattan, would likely be doing the same on The Jerry Springer Show. The more time we spend with Syd, and his incessant moping, the more loathsome he becomes, precisely because nearly all of his complaints are hopelessly empty and juvenile, more becoming of a spoiled 13-year-old. His few positive memories of London are purely sexual (and notably selfish), and his social treatment of her is monstrously petty, demeaning, and eventually abusive. Her only credit is that, after two years of this, she finally dumped him. Near the end of the film, when London confides to Syd that she's afraid of falling in love with him again, after all that we've seen of Syd's boorish megalomania, one wants to burst out laughing and slap her repeatedly with a fish — that is, if one was not already funked out by having to endure it all. Evans is a blank slate as Syd, which may mean his performance is actually quite good, and Biel is initially attractive (and constantly near-nude) as the eponymous hollow sex vessel, but she never matches her good looks with charisma. Statham delivers the film's only spark, but the silliness of his "edgy" character degrades him, and his full-volume monologue revealing his raging "dark secret" is possibly the most ludicrous scene he will ever perform. As for writer/director Richards, he shows ambitions of style, but none of it comes off, and all that's left is his empty mimicry of Hurlyburly's coke-addled philosophical masturbation, his dismal characters, and their pointless, repulsive angst. Sony presents London on DVD in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The disc includes a vapid commentary from Richards, four deleted/alternate scenes (including a strange one with Leelee Sobieski from what appears to be a completely different movie), and a behind-the-scenes featurette. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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