CAPSULE: A musical with unusual subject matter was commissioned by the British National Theatre and then adapted by almost the same cast and crew into this movie version. The residents of London Road in Ipswich, England, are gripped by fear and paranoia after five naked corpses of prostitutes have been found on their little road. All of the action takes place off-screen except for the reactions of the people only involved because it happened on their street. The dialog is taken from interviews in the three years after the murder and the neighborhood buries their horror by all getting involved in a neighborhood-wide hobby. The first third of the film lives up to the promise of the concept, but what follows is a very English reaction on the road and it will likely not enthrall US audiences. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
A quiet, unexceptional road in Ipswich is rocked by the finding of the bodies of five prostitutes who had been brutally murdered. The retelling of the events of the true crime and the reaction on the road was adapted into a very successful stage play with a twist. The locals' actual accounts of the incident were adapted to musical form. That musical had two sell-out runs at the British National Theatre. The musical play was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards and has now been adapted by its stage director Rufus Norris into a film. As on the stage, Alecky Blythe provided book and lyrics and Adam Cork contributed music and lyrics. It fact most of the actors and crew are directly taken from the successful stage play.
The idea of taking a startling crime and turning it into a stage musical brings back memories of "Sweeney Todd." Sadly, unlike that play this film carefully avoids all the possible thrills in their telling. The subject matter is not the crime itself, but the reaction of the residents of London Road. In fact, we are never even told how the criminal was caught. The perpetrator is caught about a third the way into the film and most of the rest of the story is how the street residents decide to give their road a good name by cleaning the local yards up and having everyone competing to have the most beautiful flower-filled garden. The film culminates in the road's flower festival where awards are given for the nicest gardens. To an American it seems a very British reaction to seek solace in making their gardens grow. American audiences would and the other extreme and would want at least two car chases and a look at the victims' bodies. The music of this musical in large part is injected by having characters speak in singsong voices. There is no melody anybody in the audience is going to want to be humming.
The American viewer longs for the early moments of the film when people were saying anybody could be the killer and "everybody's very, very nervous," and the story might have gone into s Rod- Serling-ish "The Monsters Are Due on London Road." There are not many light moments unless they are just looking at some of the stranger personalities. There is a moment or two of levity watching a newscaster who is not allowed to say the word "sperm" and cannot think of an alternative.
Cinematographer Danny Cohen has some nice photo studies of paranoid faces. His photography early in the film seems to have the feel of a perpetually overcast sky that clears up in time for the end of the film and the flower festival. Perhaps to add a little marquee value the film has one fairly recognizable actor, Tom Hardy. He has only a small part but he is a flavor of the month after making films like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, THE DROP, LOCKE, LEGEND, and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.
The biggest problem with the film is that so soon in the film it loses all of its tension and goes flaccid. After that the only thing people are nervous about is getting up on the stage at the flower festival. Viewers looking for suspense and excitement will be disappointed. I rate LONDON ROAD a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. LONDON ROAD went into a limited American release on September 7, 2016.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3573598/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/london_road
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper