Once Upon a Time in London review – unconvincing gangland saga

the Guardian | 4/19/2019 | Leslie Felperin
AavyAavy (Posted by) Level 4

Somehow, this true-crime-inspired gangster film brings to mind the 80s/90s concept of “heritage cinema”, a phrase that back in the day was applied to films by Merchant Ivory and any literary adaptation of the era. This particular period drama, however, has no ladies in crinolines sipping tea. Indeed, this recounting of the rise and fall of London mob boss Jack “Spot” Comer (Terry Stone) and his protege-****-rival Billy Hill (Leo Gregory) mostly features lairy cockney men swearing and slicing each other up with cut-throat razors or finding even more inventive ways to inflict pain. (At one point, supporting character Frankie Fraser, played by Roland Manookian, ties a victim to the wall and throws darts at his face.) But the film’s nostalgic posturing – where boozy nights in the pub were soundtracked by skiffle-band covers, £80 was a lot of money and all prostitutes were pretty – is just as misleading and romanticised as anything that Helena Bonham Carter might have starred in before she became cool.

If the intended audience for this is people who like true crime books with retro cover art then this will probably scratch their itch. But it’s not hard to see that the budget was modest and spread as thin as it possibly could be. Apparently, it was all shot in and around London, but the final effect isn’t always convincing; for example, what’s supposed to be a street corner in Soho where a key fight takes place looks more like an empty anonymous stretch of Croydon pavement. All the way through, the characters reference London landmarks, like notorious East End pubs, only for the locations used to look slightly off.

Feel - Extends - Characterisation - Drama - Stone

That under-financed feel extends to the characterisation and the drama. Stone, who co-wrote and produced this in collaboration with co-writer-director Simon Rumley, can’t quite manage to...
(Excerpt) Read more at: the Guardian
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