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Originally published Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Movie review

Shadowy 'London Boulevard' echoes earlier films

"London Boulevard," written and directed by William Monahan ("The Departed") and starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley, is a shadowy crime thriller about a man trying to escape his past. Though the film felt familiar in its echoes of earlier works (particularly its almost-namesake, "Sunset Boulevard"), Seattle Times film critic Moira Macdonald found it stylish and assured, with Farrell's performance particularly compelling.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'London Boulevard,' with Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ben Chaplin, Ray Winstone, David Thewlis, Anna Friel. Written and directed by William Monahan, based on the novel by Ken Bruen. 104 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains violence and strong language). SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.

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Mitchel (Colin Farrell) strolls the wet streets of London at night, looking like someone accustomed to danger. Fresh from a three-year prison sentence, he walks lightly but warily, as if somebody just might be watching him; he doesn't exactly look over his shoulder, but you sense he's checking all the shadows.

Somebody usually is watching Mitchel in William Monahan's moody crime thriller "London Boulevard," a stylish if familiar tale of a man hopelessly entangled in his past. Wanting a fresh start after his release, Mitchel hears about a job as a handyman to a reclusive, beautiful young actress named Charlotte (Keira Knightley), whose iconic photograph seems to hang over every bus and street corner in London like an elegant ghost. (Yes, there's a hint of "Sunset Boulevard" here, as the title indicates.) Somebody's always watching her, too — vaguely threatening paparazzi populate the sidewalk in front of her mansion — and the two find a connection, helped along by Mitchel's weakness for damaged, vulnerable women. (He's forever trying to take care of his party-girl, train-wreck sister, played with skittery appeal by Anna Friel.) Los Angeles, floating somewhere in the distance, seems like a mecca for them ... if only Mitchel can avoid falling into the darkness.

Watching "London Boulevard," you sense that you've seen this movie before, and you have; handsome gangsters hoping to leave the life behind are a dime a dozen. But Monahan shows assurance in his directing debut (he won an Oscar for writing another crime thriller, "The Departed"), and Farrell, always a welcome sight, gives his dark character nuance and appealing flashes of humanity. At one point, Mitchel quotes the poet Rilke, thinking perhaps both of his sister and Charlotte: "Everything terrible is something who needs our love."

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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