London (2005)

I’m not sure who decided to cast Chris Evans and Jason Statham in this type of movie, but whoever it was deserves either credit or something being thrown at him. Do you hear that cast and automatically think “deep drama consisting almost solely of dialogue scenes”? If you do, then your name must be Hunter Richards, the writer/director of London. If that’s the case, thanks for reading my review, Mr. Richards.

Chris Evans’ character, Syd, is heartbroken. It has been six months since he and his girlfriend, London (Jessica Biel) have broken up, but he’s still having difficulty processing his emotions. In this difficult time, he has turned to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and profanity in order to cope. All vices meant to do some damage to his 21-year-old body, but they help kill the pain. Or, he hopes they will. He can’t deal with the break-up and it hurts him too much to bear.

It comes as a surprise to him that she’s fleeing town tomorrow, and that a going away party is being held in her honor tonight. Despite how close the two once were to one another, she didn’t give him a call to let him know that he might never see her again. They haven’t even spoken in two months. But after learning about the party, Syd has decided he’s going to crash this party. Not necessarily to ruin it, but just to say goodbye one last time. At least, that’s what we hope.

First, he has to go to the bar, just like most respectful twentysomethings do in the middle of the day. It’s here that he meets Bateman (Jason Statham), a banker who happens to be in the neighborhood and also happens to be in the possession of a great deal of cocaine. They’re going to spend a lot of time together by film’s end, much to Bateman’s chagrin. The cocaine is mostly a cover — Syd really just wants a wingman for emotional (and possibly physical) backup.

They arrive before anyone else at the party, although the host remarks that they shouldn’t even be there. They head up to the upstairs bathroom, a place where they’re going to be staying for most of the film. They have their cocaine, their drinks, their cigarettes, and are ready and waiting. To pass the time, they talk about whatever passes through their mind — their past and faith come up quite often.

Meanwhile, the audience sees this cut across flashbacks of London and Syd’s relationship. Most of these scenes involve fighting of some sort of another, and we come to realize why they broke up. We don’t, however, understand how they lasted two years. Maybe showing some scenes where they don’t fight might have helped us out in that regard, but that’s not what we’re given. I appreciated the way these transitions came about, however, as it’s often done seamlessly.

What London really feels like is a play. It has a small cast of characters (and a great deal of extras), takes place primarily in one location (a bathroom), and almost exclusively involves actors sitting around talking, trying to figure out what to do in life. There are also a great deal of long takes, further making it feel like a play. If it weren’t for those flashbacks (which aren’t actually necessary for telling this story), London would work perfectly if it were to be performed on a stage.

Unfortunately, this leads to not a lot happening, and the one main problem for the main character being easily resolved. All he has to do is walk down a few stairs and say hello, and see what happens from there. But it takes 60 minutes to convince him to do that, and even then, it’s a struggle. This is a character who we can’t really empathize with because he doesn’t seem willing to help himself.

However, I’m inclined to not be too down on him because the conversations that we’re allowed to listen to are interesting enough to carry the film. I’m not sure how true some of the “facts” that characters use to back up their beliefs are, but I do know that it was fun listening to them nonetheless. And because all of the characters are snorting coke pretty much whenever they’re not talking (yes, most of them likely should have overdosed), there’s a sort of manic energy to their interactions that makes sure you’re never bored.

Unfortunately, once the film does leave the bathroom, it dies down very quickly. The resolution happens to quickly and in predictability. For a film that can move from philosophical discussions about God to a severed ear to the energy that’s generated when you tell rice that you love it, the ending is surprisingly simplistic and easy to figure out. It also didn’t seem to quite fit the tone of the rest of the film, although since that tone is almost entirely made of angst, that might have been for the best.

London is a very weird film. It stars Jason Statham and Chris Evans, but forces them to sit around and talk for 90 minutes. Is it boring? Not really. Is it interesting? Occasionally. But I’m not sure if it’s necessarily worth it. It feels more like a play than a film, and by the end, you’re not going to care whether or not Evans and Biel get back together — Evans’ character hasn’t made us feel for him over the last hour and a half. I think it’s worth seeing if only to say that you did, but I don’t think many will walk away happy.

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