The Limehouse Golem: Too Much Bark, Not Enough Bite from Victorian Whodunit Thriller
Douglas BoothOlivia Cooke...
HorrorMystery & Suspense
Juan Carlos Medina
In 1 Cinema
Based on Peter Ackroyd’s 1994 mystery-novel, Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, Juan Carlos Medina’s British whodunit thriller is neither here nor there.
Set around a mysterious killer that has shaken the streets of Victorian London with a series of grisly murders, it all begins with the death of a journalist and failed playwright, John Cree (Reid), who is found dead in his bed one morning. His wife Elizabeth, a.k.a Little Lizzie (Cook) – an ex-entertainer at a popular musical hall – is accused of poisoning him and is soon put on a highly publicised trial. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard Inspector, John Kildare (Bill Nighy), is brought in to investigate a series of murders that have taken over the streets of London and is tasked with finding the killer that the shaken community of Victoria-era London, soon nicknaming him The Limehouse Golem.
With the investigation underway, Kildare soon finds himself talking to Lizzie who sits in a prison cell waiting for the verdict. Digging into her past, Kildare unravels a history of poverty and abuse for a woman who soon rose up to a life of riches and fame, working alongside the legendary performer, Dan Leno (Booth). Developing a sympathy and fatherly affection for the young woman, it soon becomes clear that the trial for John Cree’s death and the investigation at hand is connected in more ways than one.
Using a traditional whodunit setup, the premise of The Limehouse Golem is intriguing enough to build on. However, as we watch Kildare, who has partnered up with local cop George Flood (Mays) to help him navigate the dark and narrow streets of London, speaking to people and looking for clues is needlessly complicated and at times even confusing. Moreover, the film uses extensive flashbacks, depicting Lizzie’s harrowing childhood and rise to fame, instead of focusing on the present, resulting in a periodic loss of interest in the central plot.
On the other hand, the visuals are solid with the period costume and set-design providing much of the atmosphere, while the gory violence, although a little jarring at times, is bizarrely fun to watch. In addition, the lead performances are also effective with Nighy managing to deliver a refined performance. Cooke is equally solid despite her character’s arc being quite underdeveloped and subsequently uninteresting.
The major problem lies with the story’s all-too playful tone which diminishes the story’s impact and the film’s overall lack of originality. The film has plenty of atmosphere and theatrical glee to offer, but it’s the central mystery, and its overall unravelling, that’s just not as intriguing or as involving as it needs to be.