Hardman Mitchell (Colin Farrell) gets out of prison and tries not to be lured back into crime by an old friend (Ben Chaplin) and a gang boss (Ray Winstone). He takes a job as bodyguard for a reclusive film star (Keira Knightley), but still finds it hard to go straight.
The trouble with Boston-born writer William Monahan’s directorial debut, based on a novel by Ken Bruen, is that there’s nothing you’ve not seen or heard before here... and some of those things you’d rather not see or hear again, like Colin Farrell’s whispery mockney accent from Cassandra’s Dream. It’s so close in tone to one recent British gangland drama it could almost be retitled Layer Cake 2, down to the mix of old-style thuggery and celebritocracy, and one or two specific turns of the plot.
The mismatched leads are not on form, as the otherwise meaningless title suggests the mix of young he-man and housebound diva will mutate into a Britpic Sunset Blvd. which never catches fire: Knightley’s paparazzi-benighted celeb is a hollow caricature, and it’s impossible to feel sorry for a whiny paranoid martyr in big black sunglasses, while Farrell just looks puzzled and earnest unless he's thumping someone or taking his own lumps.
Still, there’s value for money in the supporting cast: David Thewlis as a louche hanger-on out of Performance, Ben Chaplin as the weaselly former best friend who does everything to wheedle the hero back into trouble, Anna Friel as Farrell’s tipsy femme fatale sister, and Official National Treasure Ray Winstone as another smoothly violent, brutally genial Mr. Big. It even has a good selection of less-familiar ‘60s rock tracks and a couple of scenes which verge on deliberate black comedy.
Guilty, with one or two mitigating circumstances.