Tourists have been avoiding London as a major crisis plays out, but writer Samson Young (Billy Bob Thornton) sees the situation as an opportunity. He answers a personal ad, swapping his dumpy Hell’s Kitchen apartment for a much nicer 3-bedroom flat in the heart of London, owned by celebrated writer Mark Asprey (Jason Isaacs). Samson is a fiction writer who’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and is looking to write his last great novel. As he arrives in London, driver Keith Talent (Jim Sturgess)—a professional darts player who is deep in debt with several loan sharks—takes him to the Black Cross Pub, where they cross paths with posh businessman Guy Clinch (Theo James). Everything in the bar seems to come to a halt as the beautiful & mysterious Nicola Six (Amber Heard) walks in. She is dressed in a black dress an veil, looking like she just came from a funeral. Both Keith and Guy are infatuated, and waste no time hitting on her, but Nicola plays it coy.
Nicola lives in Samson’s building, and he can’t help but spy on her through the slats in his ceiling. He discovers some of Nicola’s journals, where she describes how she has always premonitions of the future, which give her the knowledge of how and when those close to her will die. She even knows how her own story is going to end—shortly after midnight, on her 30th birthday—and that the murderer is going to be one of the three men she just met for the first time in the pub. Samson is intrigued—he has always wanted to write a murder mystery, and asks Nicola if he can be there at the time of her death so that he can write her story. He sees Keith, Guy and Nicola as the perfect characters for his final novel. Nicola, who has already accepted her fate, decides to seduce and have an affair with each of the men from the pub in order to help Samson get material for his thriller, and to help him identify the murderer.
London Fields is based Martin Amis’ novel of the same name. I don’t know how well-received the novel was, but it’s pretty easy to see why the film wasn’t a box office smash—and why it took 3 years to even be released. To put it bluntly, the movie is pretty much an incoherent mess. It starts off as a promising noir detective tale, narrated by the Samson Young character, but devolves into this nonsensical mess that abruptly jumps around between the characters, cutting to various cameos (there’s even one by Johnny Depp!) and vignettes that don’t seem to really serve the story. There is one really bizarre sequence that finds Jason Isaacs dressed in a red leather devil bondage-like outfit having sex with Nicola. It feels like there was supposed to be some deeper, spiritual meaning to the scene, but if there was, it went over my head. And Jim Sturgess’ character is a bit too over-the-top—his whole dart tournament feels like something out of The Hunger Games while the rest of the film is more grounded. There another scene where he’s just dancing in the rain and playing an air guitar like he’s in a music video for Money For Nothing. While some of this was visually interesting, it just made no sense in regards to the story. And as for the overall murder mystery, I found the “twist” pretty predictable from the start.
As someone who primarily watches Blu-rays and 4K discs, I found the picture quality on this DVD release a bit dull and muddled on my 4K TV. Though on the smaller screen of my laptop, it actually looked quite nice. The film itself has a unique look and feel that could have benefited from an HD transfer. However, I can see why FOX opted to only release this on the most common home video format. The only bonus feature included on the release is the theatrical trailer.
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- Closed Captions
- Theatrical Trailer (1:43)
I hate writing bad reviews, but I can’t genuinely recommend London Fields—it is a film that can probably be skipped, unless you are a die-hard fan of the cast. Speaking of the cast—there is some amazing talent here, but it is wasted on a lackluster story, with poor execution. The DVD doesn’t include any bonus material, so those still wanting to check this out are probably better off going digital, with an HD rental or purchase.