Friday, July 20, 2012

Hanif Kureishi's 'London Kills Me,' a review

London Kills Me, 1992, 107 minutes, color, United Kingdom. Written and directed by Hanif Kureishi. Starring Justin Chadwick as Clint Eastwood, Steven Mackintosh as Muffdiver, Fiona Shaw as Headley, Emer McCourt as Sylvie, Tony Haygarth as Burns, Naveen Andrews as Bike, Roshan Seth as Dr. Bubba, and Brad Dourif as Hemingway. Rating on a scale of 10: 8.

London Kills Me seems a cross between Trainspotting and Drugstore Cowboy, yet a cut below those films, and not quite as gritty in its portrayal of the drug culture. It’s more lighthearted, and frankly, the actors look too cute and healthy to be drug addicts. But it’s still a superior film, and a great directing debut for writer Hanif Kureishi, who captures the seediness of the post-Tory ruled London in the early 1990s.

The plot, which is amusingly off the wall, concerns a very small-time London drug team run by Muffdiver (Mackintosh, who looks just like Charlie Hero of Buddha of Suburbia), and populated by his sellers, one of whom, Clint Eastwood (Chadwick) is disillusioned with drugs and wants a job as a waiter in an upscale cafe. The cafe’s manager Hemingway (Brad Dourif, in a great cameo), says he can have the job if he can come up with a cool pair of shoes to wear by Tuesday. No shoes, no job, says Hemingway. Also, the drug team breaks into and squats a luxury condo so they can impress some high-level drug dealers who Muffdiver wants to deal with.

That’s the plot, and it’s a lot of fun. Kureishi provides viewers quite a glimpse into the underbelly of London and the young grifters who populate it, selling and seeking drugs, sleeping where and with whom they can. Chadwick is a talented youngster, but he seems too pretty to be a homeless drug addict. Mackintosh is great as the small drug lord. As in other films, he uses his face and eyes to betray his anger and frustration.

The talented Naveen Andrews seems wasted as a bicycle-freak named Bike, and I would have preferred him in the Clint Eastwood role. Roshan Seth is marvelous as a serene guru named Dr. Bubba. Young actress Emer McCourt is Sylvie, the one girl in the drug team, and the object of both Muffdiver’s and Clint’s lust. Her character seems to be the one who actually suffers in this film. She mutilates herself and in one scene, suffers a bad case of the drug shakes. Film has an upbeat ending that is generally in sync with the light treatment of the topic. (Watch a clip above)

-- Doug Gibson

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