Afraid of being trapped by his golden god looks and matinee charm, Jude Law seems committed to the serious business of playing brooding, self-absorbed cads. Building on his work in Closer, Law plays Will, another well-heeled Londoner with everything going for him, save an ability to appreciate his many gifts. He's an architect with a lovely flat, and he has a stunning live-in girlfriend (Robin Wright Penn) and a talented stepdaughter who adore him, but just can't seem to communicate or break through their lingering melancholy. Along with twitchy partner Sandy (Martin Freeman), Will is working on the gentrification of London's shabby King's Cross section, a multi-ethnic melting pot ready to boil over with crime, poverty and an influx of illegal immigrants. Some of these newcomers have taken to stealing the firm's computers, then waiting to break in when the replacements arrive.
Instead of just hiring security, Will conducts his own overnight stakeouts, and follows acrobatic young burglar Miro (Ravi Gavron) back to the grim council tenement where he lives with his gorgeous Bosnian mother Amira (Julliette Binoche). She is, of course, exotic, mysterious and sensual in a way that he's not used to, and shortly they are embroiled in a complicated affair.
The ensuing tangle of lies, blackmail, foolishness and bad vibes is as inevitable and jarring as the ever-changing urban landscape. In his first unadapted script in years, writer-director Anthony Minghella tries to be bold and challenging but comes off a bit arch and distant, with characters more fragile then an antique tea service. The actors are uniformly good, but they are locked into a rarified atmosphere that leaves scenes lifeless and stolid.
Wright Penn gamely tries to infuse some life into a thankless role, but as written, her character, Liv, radiates about as much warmth as a slab of marble. It's the kind of movie where endless soul-searching conversations are accompanied by a plinky piano score that drones tediously beneath everything. In an attempt to be organic and real, the film stumbles into the uncomfortable paradox of too much plot and not enough action. Ideas never properly congeal, threads are left to dangle and themes are repeated until the film begins to creak under metaphoric weight. Much lip service is given to the clash between nature and construction, while Minghella has fastidiously engineered every little element that there's no room to simply live.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.