When I first heard about this film, I didn’t have high expectations of it. The trailer just had lots of people saying the term “The Limehouse Golem” a lot, and if your script requires you to repeat the same phrase repeatedly to remind your audience what the film is about, then it is on a losing streak already.
You might be asking yourself why I then went on to watch it. Well I watched it with a friend, and they chose the movie. Also, I can remember not wanting to watch “Gladiator” when it came out, and was pleasantly surprised by it, so you know, first impressions can be wrong…
On this occasion I was not wrong. This film is a laborious stumble through gas lit streets, with little purpose or clear reason.
Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) and Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) hang this film together in a relationship which is never really explained along with Dan Leno (Douglas Booth) and a raft of other (sometimes needless) characters.
The plot is really simple – there is a killer on the loose, Kildare needs to find out who has done it, Elisabeth Cree has been incarcerated on suspicions of killing her husband… or was it the Limehouse Golem?
The film then bumbles through a series of ambiguous flashbacks and false theories in Kildare’s head which are draped with terrible red herrings and obvious dead ends.
That is about as much as I want to say on the story line, as I have bored myself in those few short sentences.
The cinematography is a little hap hazard, sometime hazy which makes you wonder if it is supposed to be the haze of memory or if the camera man just had a rough night. The scenes switch between the British library (which is not the British library) and the garish music hall where Dan Leno works. Occassionally would will see some stereotypical shots of 18th Century London, albeit everyone looks very clean and still have all their own teeth.
It is really obvious that I didn’t like this wanna be Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Rippereque movie, but there are some things which really got under my skin in it, and true to the name “Cranky” I am going to share them with you, in the hope that someone will either make them clearer or at least sympathise with my viewing pain.
- The killer is painfully obvious from the start. I won’t tell you who it is here, but the dialogue and action leads you to the conclusion within the first 10 minutes of the film. You will then spend the rest of the time frustrated at how no one else can see the answer.
- I don’t know why Kildare and Elizabeth Cree have such a relationship. Kildare enters the case and sees a woman being accused and appears to become instantly close to her, this really is never explained or justified.
- This is a biggy for me – I don’t know why the killer is referred to as a Golem. The writers never really found it necessary to explain what a Golem is. I know a little about Jewish folklore, so I was ok with the term, but for those that aren’t – a Golem is an inanimate being which can be created from clay or mud and then controlled by placing written commands in its mouth. It will then come to life, perform the task and return to being inanimate. There is a vague reference to this “Golem” when a Rabbi is killed, and his book is open to a page about Golems, but after that there is very little mention of what one is or why the killer is dubbed as such. I think it is a vague punt at being an analogy of the killer being created out of circumstance and driven to do these murderous acts through the control of insanity rather than being actually controlled, but even that doesn’t come across very clearly.
- The end alludes to the death of the killer as the end of the Golem and potentially the control came from the lurid (and frankly pantomime like) stories which Dan Leno acted out, but due to illusive time lines within the film, you can never really be sure what happened first.
- There is a book which the killer has kept notes in. Apparently, the killer is a dab hand at replicating art to a superior level, as there are sketched pictures by Bosch and Dore denoting hell. There are also scribbled references to Thomas De’Quincy “Confessions of an Opium Eater”. Now, unless you are very in to art and literature (which sadly I am) or you like to pick out little elements of films like this and google them – no one will understand what the producer and director are trying to get at with these references. If you are wondering how these fit together – you will know how most people who watch this film felt while watching it. There is a link… Bosch and Dore’s pictures show tortures in hell and the book “Confessions of an Opium Eater” takes you through the life of an opium addict and the long-term effects… being those of nightmares, insomnia, pain, anguish – like a living hell.
- There is some vague attempt in this to demonstrate feminism and women were treated in the 1800’s, but this is poorly presented and completely contrived. There is little actual historical truth or fact in the events which are being shown within the film and is a work of marvellous fiction within the creator’s mind, which I image they felt they were being really edgy and original when they made this film.
So, to round up… If you want to waste the best part of 3 hours, this is definitely the film for you. If you would rather do something more productive with your life than wonder why Bill Nighy signed up to be in this, avoid at all costs.
Have you seen The Limehouse Golem? Why not tell me what you thought in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?