London Fields, 2018
Directed by Mathew Cullen.
Starring Amber Heard, Billy Bob Thornton, Theo James, Jim Sturgess, Johnny Depp, Cara Delevingne, Jaimie Alexander, Gemma Chan, Lily Cole, Michael Schaeffer, Henry Garrett, Emily Kincaid, and Jason Isaacs
Clairvoyant femme fatale Nicola Six has been living with a dark premonition of her impending death by murder. She begins a tangled love affair with three uniquely different men: one of whom she knows will be her murderer.
Ladies and gentlemen, here it is: the real reason Johnny Depp and Amber Heard fell out of love. If your significant other came to you and helped get you the lead role in this dumpster fire of a flick (London Fields premiered at film festivals two years ago and despite its loaded cast of notable names, the movie still couldn’t find theatrical distribution until now), well, it would cause a rift. This film is so terrible I’m not even sure if I’m joking. There’s a part where Billy Bob Thornton’s terminally ill novelist Samson attempts to knock out a few chapters of the book he is writing, which is actually based on events unfolding in real life but I will get to that in a bit. Anyway, he stares at the computer screen and in his writer’s block begins furiously typing variations of the word “fuck” over and over with more letters for emphasis. I would be lying if I said I didn’t contemplate doing the same thing once I realized I had to write about this movie. Good God in heaven what did I just waste 105 minutes of my life on.
Before I go into detail as to what this flaming garbage is even about, I have to give a disclaimer that, for whatever reason, the screening link of the film I was sent came with all sorts of problems. No matter what I did with the Google Chrome browser, portions of the screen were completely cut off. At first, I just thought that music video creator/first-time film director Mathew Cullen (adapting the novel from Martin Amis that a colleague tells me is actually quite decent, leading me to believe that the issues are fundamentally within the direction and script) could only net some subpar cinematographer, but that is 100% not the case seeing as the director of photography here has worked with master class filmmakers such as Guillermo Del Toro. Additionally, there are some bizarre lighting transitions often within the same scene that feel awkward, and nothing like a stylistic choice. It’s almost as if the people putting together the screening link didn’t even give a crap about this movie, fully knowing that no matter how it’s put together, it’s going to be rightfully trashed.
Even the director knows the film is terrible, apparently suing the producers for tarnishing whatever his final cut was. Look, I would love to say that due to my unfortunate viewing experience that maybe there is something of substance within London Fields, but really, there isn’t. It’s kind of amazing that the movie is even seeing the light of day.
With all of that preamble out-of-the-way, all else you need to know is that London Fields follows a femme fatale terribly named Nicola Six (Amber Heard) who, for some inexplicable reason, is able to view premonitions of death ranging from her family members to herself. She knows that she is going to die on her 30th birthday, and she knows that the killer is one of the men inside a certain London pub. Samson (Billy Bob Thornton) happens to be a struggling novelist moving to the area (there is some kind of unexplained apocalypse going on, which although not clearly stated but going off of the novel is meant to be an exaggerated version of the Y2K fear-mongering, complete with some kind of nuclear war going on). These unlucky men are the wealthy Theo James and a street hooligan played by Jim Sturgess; Johnny Depp is also here as an eccentric gangster/professional darts player that appears and sounds as if he walked right off of an Alice in Wonderland set to this travesty.
Nicola has accepted her fate and has no desire to change whatever the universe has planned for her, which in this case is about to be a violent murder. Instead, she has fun trying to figure out which of the men is going to commit the heinous acts, tricking both of them to fall in love with her while also bonding with Samson over their inevitable deaths. At one point, Samson says it’s a race to the finish line, which made me realize I wish I could beat them both there first if it meant I didn’t have to watch another minute of this movie.
Nothing here matters or feel consequential, which is baffling considering that both of these potential murderers have wives and families. London Fields is a nonstop onslaught of safe and tame sex scenes that elicit no reaction. Part of this is because while Amber Heard most definitely has the beauty part down, she isn’t very good in the role nor does the script give her anything interesting to say or do. It doesn’t help that literally, everyone will be able to see the ending coming from the beginning of the movie. Essentially, what we have here is a thriller we know the ending to, with no intriguing characters to offset something so frustrating. Samson also unreliably narrates most of the film with god-awful comments on the creative process of writing, at one point saying that a title should live and breathe in every moment of a story, which tells me why this movie is called London Fields; it should be buried in one.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com