RIZ Ahmed is one of the most exciting British acting talents to emerge in a long time, an actor of range, understated charisma and a powerful presence. But even he can’t save this heavy-handed and confusing London-set crime mystery.
Ahmed plays Tommy Akhtar, a private eye trading in finding people and handling their secrets. “I deal in the lies they tell and the truths they don’t,” says Tommy in a glum and entirely unneeded voiceover.
One day he is approached by glamorous prostitute Melody (Cush Jumbo) to find a Russian girl who has gone missing, a case which leads him into a world of religious fanaticism, government operations and back into the life of estranged friend Lovely (James Floyd) and former romantic interest Shelley (Billie Piper, in an underdeveloped and rather thankless role).
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There’s something initially intriguing about what director Pete Travis (Dredd) is trying to accomplish: transposing classic (primarily American) noir tropes into a gritty, multicultural London setting. But rather than homage it just feels generic, and any effect it might have had is dumbed down by an erratic tone, heavy-handed dialogue and a plot that’s muddled in the extreme.
It’s a film that somehow manages to be relentlessly morose in its tone – uncomfortable and seedy without the morbid fascination of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver which it often tries to evoke – and naively saccharine. We are agonisingly drip fed a series of flashbacks to Tommy’s youth that eventually reveals a tragedy that feels like it comes from an entirely different movie; soapy melodrama is not the film’s forte and yet we’re force-fed it throughout.
It’s a shame as there was potential for a London noir with gritty bite and, perhaps, a somewhat iconic new detective whose ethnicity sets him apart. But it’s a waste of Ahmed’s talents with a thinly written character who barely does any actual detective work, fumbling his way around a needlessly cluttered mystery that’s all style and no substance.