Main cast: Bill Nighy (Inspector John Kildare), Olivia Cooke (Elizabeth Cree), Douglas Booth (Dan Leno), Daniel Mays (Constable George Flood), Sam Reid (John Cree), María Valverde (Aveline Ortega), Eddie Marsan (Uncle), Henry Goodman (Karl Marx), Paul Ritter (Augustus Rowley), Morgan Watkins (George Gissing), and Peter Sullivan (Inspector Roberts)
Director: Juan Carlos Medina
The Limehouse Golem is one of those period crime and mystery movies that want very much to be smart. It’s based on a “smart” novel, packed its cast with many respectable stage and screen thespians, and it boasts British accents, ooh. It ticks off every item on the “I am very smart!” checklist.
There is a serial killer, known as the Limehouse Golem, terrorizing London and leaving behind a list of victims that have seemingly nothing in common. Inspector John Kildare of the Scotland Yard is aware that he is sent down here to be a scapegoat – no one expects him to solve the case, and the failure will be laid at his feet, not the local police force. Nonetheless, he is determined to do his job, even if no one here aside from a constable named George is being cooperative. At the same time, former actress Olivia Cooke is accused of poisoning her playwright husband John Cree. Kildare suspects John to be the killer, so he begins to talk to the widow. What will he learn, and are his suspicions correct?
This movie is gorgeous – the costumes, the set pieces, the lighting, and of course the accents are all so Victorian London, and the cast is, of course, impeccable and faultless.
Problem is, the movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. It is marketed as a period suspense piece, with “horror mystery” tossed around in the mix, but the mystery feels inconsequential, like filler material. This movie seems more intent on showing me what a hard life Elizabeth led, and how life for a woman in those ages is a hard one. It also seems determined to show me that the concept of law and order back in those days is a farcical one, as the system is mostly filled with self-important power-hungry blowhards, cogs in the system who just want things to be done quickly and be over with, and people who care more about being titillated by scandal than ensuring that justice is served. Forget the horror or the mystery bit – the overall impression I get of this movie is that these people talk, talk, talk until Kildare stumbles upon the answers just in time for the movie to end.
Ultimately, The Limehouse Golem is a talk-heavy story that succeeds more in being pretty. It may have something to say, but who knows what that something is.