LondonReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 02/10/06 15:43:46
If you ever wondered what “Before Sunrise” would have been like if the intelligent and literate characters had been replaced with drug-addled dullards who spend the entire running time bitching and moaning about how no one understands their pain while ingesting more cocaine than Al Pacino did in the whole of “Scarface,” then “London” is the film you were born to see. For those of you with taste, dignity and a low threshold for self-indulgent whining, it will seem more like a film that has been made by, for and about the type of people who rented “The Rules of Attraction” and saw it as a celebration instead of a cautionary example.When we first see our “hero” Syd (Chris Evans), he is lying in his improbably huge apartment, zonked out on booze and coke, and dreaming about being orally gratified in a bathroom by girlfriend London (Jessica Biel). This, I should note, is the only time during the film when Syd seems to be quiet and at peace–most likely because he is the one receiving pleasure without exerting effort and because London is in no position to say anything to him to burst his bubble, so to speak. Anyway, we soon discover that London finally broke up with Syd six months earlier and is preparing to move to Los Angeles the next day. When Syd discovers that she is moving and is having a going-away party that night that he sensibly wasn’t invited to, he reacts in a typically mature manner–he screams and kills all of his pet fish by shattering their tank. (Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
On the way to the going-away party to attempt to stop her, he stops to buy a ton of cocaine and impulsively invites the courier (Jason Statham, looking as if he wishes he had a getaway car nearby) to come along with him–the two then spend most of the rest of the film holed up in an upstairs bathroom snorting drugs and endlessly jabbering about whatever profane subjects that writer-director Hunter Richards (who apparently aspires to be the next Neil LaBute, lacking only his writing skills, directorial eye and facility with actors) thinks will get a rise out of viewers. (Hilariously, only two people from the crowded party ever come up to use the bathroom and it is just an excuse to get them to monologue as well.)
Interspersed throughout are flashbacks to the times that Syd and London spent together and it gradually begins to dawn on you that they really are meant for each other–he is a self-involved narcissist who gets off on cruelly mistreating others in the guise of just being “honest” while she is a masochistic doormat who gets off on his sheer nastiness. (They are the kind of couple that you hope will get back together so that they don’t wind up inflicting themselves on other innocent people.) Eventually, we get to a scene in which Syd finally reveals the real source of his hurt–the sad thing that people just don’t understand–and when we discover it, it is so silly and stupid (though keeping with the character, I suppose) that there was a moment when I became convinced that the entire film was a parody of the kind of crappy plays that struggling actors like to work on in acting classes because it gives them a chance to yell, throw things and smoke cigarettes without having to wait for a class break.
Even if you somehow fall for the conceit that this is how people talk when they are trying to be honest about everything but themselves, you are still faced with the inescapable fact that Evans’s character is so loathsome and unlikable that even the usually odious Dane Cook, who pops up as a guest, comes off as charming by comparison. Looking and sounding like a low-rent Ethan Hawke, he struts and preens about under the delusion that he is such a compelling actor that he can behave like the most hateful jerk in the world and still come off as someone interesting and compelling to watch. This is not an impossible task but it requires a truly gifted actor to pull off and not the guy best known for being the dullest member of the Fantastic Four. As for the others, Biel (who is Evans’s real-life girlfriend, though you would be hard-pressed to find any chemistry between them in their scenes together) is required to do little more than stand around in her underwear while Syd berates her for one reason or another. (Those expecting something else should avail themselves to the IMDB, where one Vanessa Motta is prominently credited as “Jessica Biel’s Body Double”) and Statham seems to have come in from a different movie, one that you’ll desperately wish that you could sneak into long before the agonizing finale here.Grating and wildly unpleasant from beginning to end, “London” is perhaps one of the least entertaining films that I can recall seeing–the works of Todd Solondz flow with the milk of human kindness by comparison and the perverse decision to release it the weekend before Valentine’s Day is perhaps the only interesting thing about it. On the other hand, I guess that seeing a film like this could be beneficial to couples–if they can survive this experience, they can survive anything and if one of them actually winds up liking it, the other will know to get out of the relationship as soon as possible.
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