The Limehouse Golem, review: ‘Enthralling, ambitious and filled with the unexpected’
PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 August 2017
Bill Nighy is a little predictable in the lead but Olivia Cooke and Douglas Booth give stand out performances
There have been some murders. Juicy ones. In olde London town. Again.
We don’t need another serial killer film, or another serial killer film examining why we are fascinated by serial killers, or even another period piece serial killer film examining why we are fascinated by serial killers. But if we must have one, this adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s novel is all you could hope for, being enthralling and ambitious and filled with the unexpected.
Ackroyd imagines that before Jack the Ripper, the Limehouse Golem terrified the streets of the Victorian East End. His murders were brutal and random, striking at prostitutes and whole families. In these early days serial killers didn’t know that they were supposed to stick to a pattern.
Luckily inspector Nighy is on the case, a dogged softly spoken bloodhound who could’ve been the original inspiration for the nickname Plod. He is determined but may not be on the right scent, becoming fixated with the case of a woman (Cooke) arrested on suspicion of murdering her husband. The husband is one of the main Golem suspects, along with Karl Marx, author George Gissing and the most popular music hall entertainer of the day, Dan Leno.
Jane Goldman’s really smart script employs a complex scheme involving a variety of different time frames, flashbacks and unreliable narrations, and does it so smoothly, even matter of factly, that you barely notice it. Only right at the end does it perhaps overstretch. Possibly by then you are so immersed in its world that the plot mechanics are of secondary importance. The Victorian East End is an over-familiar layer of hell, but Medina makes it seem like a place people actually lived in.
Nighy is a little predictable in the lead but there is some really attention grabbing work by the lesser known names. Olivia Cooke is tremendous as the former music hall star who has worked her way up from nothing.
Douglas Booth is even better, playing cross dressing music hall legend Dan Leno as a cross between Nosferatu and Russell Brand, in Danny La Rue’s wardrobe.
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