London review by Mike Long

Finding the perfectly well-rounded movie can be very tough. To that end, most movies must play to their strengths, be that stunts, action, comedy, music, special effects, etc. Think of your favorite movie, and inspection will most likely show that the film had one truly defining characteristic which it played to the hilt. Some films are based solely on the dialogue presented in the film. The makers of these movies use words as their special effects and hope to dazzle that audience with them. The recently released drama London is such a film, but there isn't very much dazzling to be had here.

Chris Evans stars in London as Syd, a depressed young man whose day has just gotten worse. Syd has just learned that his ex-girlfriend London (Jessica Biel) is leaving town and that he wasn't invited to her going away party. So, after purchasing cocaine from Bateman (Jason Statham), Syd decides to crash the party and convinces Bateman to join him. Arriving at the party early, Syd and Bateman head for the bathroom where they do a lot of drugs and drink a lot of booze. Here, Syd tells Bateman about his stormy two-year relationship with London, and how he still loves her. So much so that he's afraid to leave the bathroom and confront her. As Syd, Bateman, and eventually Mallory verbally spar about love and the meaning of life, the night wears on. Will Syd gain the courage to say goodbye to London?

As noted above, the bulk of London's 92-minute running time takes place in the bathroom at the party, as Syd, Bateman, and Mallory do drugs and drink. During this time, we are treated to some flashbacks which illustrate the relationship between Syd and London, but it is essentially like "My Drug Binge with Syd" (as opposed to My Dinner with Andre). Given this premise, the conceit of London is built upon the conversations between Syd, Bateman, and Mallory in the present and the discussions/arguments with Syd and London. The drama does get heated at times, and there are a few sex scenes and one fight scene (I can only imagine that Jason Statham's contract stated that he had to have a fight scene), but overall, London is built around conversations.

The problem with London is that the conversations aren't very interesting. Not that writer/director Hunter Richards doesn't try. In fact, he's trying to hard. The characters in the film talk about love and sex and the existence of God, and it all attempts to be very deep. But it all rings very hollow. Perhaps this is the movie's intention, but all I was getting was a bunch of stoned people who were babbling on about things which they felt were important, but means very little to the audience. The talking just keeps going and going and the viewer begins to realize that this movie won't be leaving the bathroom any time soon. Richards wants to convey the sense of "real" conversations which come across in the works of Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino, but the majority of the dialogue just sounds fake.

Again, London has little to offer beyond the dialogue, but there is a story here, as we follow the arc of London and Syd's relationship in the past and Syd's bathroom-bound hissy fit in the bathroom. In this realm, the film fails as well. For beginners, none of the characters are likable or sympathetic, least of all Syd. He comes across as a whiner who realizes that he's given up a great girl (which is exactly what he is) and it's hard to feel sorry for him. As we get to know Bateman, he becomes less likable and his backstory, which is meant to be shocking, is laughable. The rest of the characters are simply filler. I also don't agree with the way London is portrayed at the party. Given the pacing of the film, my mind kept wandering ahead and I came up with some scenarios which would have been more fulfilling (or at least interesting) then the finished film.

The film's structure places a great deal of weight on the actors, some of whom deliver. Chris Evans is surprisingly good here, as he's best know for lightweight roles in Fantastic Four and Not Another Teen Movie. His scruffy appearance lends to Syd's depressed nature and he brings an unexpected intensity to the role. Jason Statham is, of course, recognizable as a action star, so it's interesting to see him as the quite, somewhat shy Bateman. He does get intense later in the film, but I've always seen Statham as being very one-dimensional and he's able to rise above that here. Jessica Biel must have been OK in the movie, as she really didn't get on my nerves. (Honestly, I don't understand her appeal.) Comedian Dane Cook has a very odd (as in pointless) cameo in the movie, but he delivers some funny lines.

London has some nice ideas and it's admirable that in today's ADHD world someone wants to make a movie that is anchored in dialogue. But, the movie is a mish-mash of drug-speak and missed opportunities.

London chats its way onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks pretty good, as it's sharp and clear. The picture is free from distracting grain and there are no defects from the source material. The movie has a very monochromatic palette for the most part, so the appearance of bright colors really stand out in the transfer. The image did seem somewhat dark and flat at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. As the dialogue is the crux of the film, the track delivers clear voices with no distortion. The music sounds fine and the stereo effects are good. The crowd noise delivers some nice surround effects and there is a hint of subwoofer action at times.

The London DVD contains some disappointing extras. There's a very self-indulgent audio commentary from writer/director Hunter Richards and associate producer Ross Weinberg where Richards just goes on and on about the wine and cigarettes which are provided in the commentary studio. Does he really think that we care or that it's amusing? When he's not rambling about this, he does talk about the movie, but his information is often vague and he constantly talks about whether or not the drugs are shown in the film. At one point, he's mentions a director's cut of the film, but there's no elaboration on this. The "Behind the Scenes Featurette" (9 minute) also delivers little info as we get some random on-set footage and comments from Evans, Biel, and Bryant, but we never get any info on how this film from a first-time director got made. The DVD contains 4 "Deleted Scenes", which run about 15 minutes. Three of these are new scenes which don't add much and one extended scene.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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