THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM

PrintE-mail Written by Jack Bottomley

From Agatha Christie whodunits to taut Hitchcock classics or Conan Doyle sleuthing to Victorian cobbled street investigations, if you love yourself a good murder mystery, then you have likely seen it all. As a result it is rather easy to be one step ahead of the game in these kinds of films and consequently it becomes difficult to be truly surprised. And while Juan Carlos Medina’s The Limehouse Golem may not shock genre veterans with its central investigation, it just might with its style and contemporary themes.

Based on the 1994 novel by Peter Ackroyd, this movie sees a ruthless killer stalk the streets of Victorian London. Veteran police inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) is assigned the case but as the mystery impends, the city is also busy with news of the trial of stage star Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke), who stands accused of poisoning her husband. However the two stories start to interlink as Kildare becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of the Golem and saving an innocent woman from the hangman’s noose too.

Jane Goldman’s adapting of Ackroyd’s story can’t have been easy and there are times that you think the story may have befitted a TV screen more than a cinema screen (though in an old fashioned cinema this will be right at home) but she has done a tremendous job. The film evokes The Hughes Brothers’ From Hell by way of Penny Dreadful, with passing moments akin to giallo. The shadow smothered alleys of Victorian London being massively stylised to gothically chilling effect and the – rather strong – violence also following suit. Despite this taking place slightly earlier, the Ripper’s silhouette looms large over this impressively assembled film, which has much substance to back this striking style.

Goldman’s screenplay is stuffed with plot and theatrical grandiosity, which may well prove a tad OTT for some tastes (as will the viscera) but the film is not afraid to rake its fingernails in the muck of its era. Be it the scuffed, fraught, exterior fog-drenched streets or the (West Yorkshire shot and immaculately assembled) interior playhouse sets, this is an investigation that grips and reflects an era of immorality. However, in doing so, Goldman instils some very intriguing issues that hold a looking glass up to our time, with themes of suppressed sexuality, feminism and the nature of abuse on the mind. True, the final twist (with this in mind) may not come as too much of a shock to people who know these kinds of movies in and out but it doesn’t hinder what is a gripping little watch.

Previously intended to star the late great Alan Rickman (who the film is dedicated to), Bill Nighy is excellent as the afflicted and flawed yet human Kildare. While Olivia Cooke walks away with the film as Cree, in what comes to be such a richly layered and generously developed character and Cooke gives it her all. There are also a host of good supporting turns from the likes of Douglas Booth (who really throws himself into it as the flamboyant stage star/comic Dan Leno), Daniel Mays as Kildare’s right hand officer and a creepy Eddie Marsan.

The Limehouse Golem is an odd little Gothic Victorian murder mystery and a stirring cocktail of period chills, modern anxieties and gruesome cruelty. 

THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JUAN CARLOS MEDINA / SCREENPLAY: JANE GOLDMAN / STARRING: BILL NIGHY, OLIVIA COOKE, DOUGLAS BOOTH, DANIEL MAYS, EDDIE MARSAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW 

Expected Rating: 7/10

Actual Rating:



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