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Review: City of Tiny Light

Plenty of fags but no draw in this London noir from director Pete Travis

06 April, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Down these mean streets… of Harrow Road: Riz Ahmed in City of Tiny Lights

Directed by Pete Travis
Certificate 15

THIS London noir is an odd creature. It wants to be all things to all people, using the vehicle of the great Los Angeles crime films. But instead it staggers under such a burden, overladen by its social comment. It stumbles from scene to scene, stymied by a script of contemporary Cockney that never convinces, and slopes through scenes peopled by clichéd character after clichéd character.

Tommy (Riz Ahmed, doing his best with often paltry material) is the private detective, working in an office behind a Marlow-style frosted glass door. This time it’s found above a minicab office somewhere off the Harrow Road, not Sunset Boulevard.

One day, prostitute Melody (Cush Jumbo) walks in and says her flatmate, another escort, has gone missing and can he help find her? This takes Tommy into a world of dodgy property developers, religious fundamentalists and drug dealers. That could all be straightforward, but a parallel plot pops up to dilute the action, focusing on Tommy’s teenage life and his long-term love, Shelley (Billie Piper).

It doesn’t shy away from our city’s big issues – things like race relations, drugs, and gentrification are all important plot drivers – but is let down by an often wooden script and similarly awkward scenes.
It’s a shame as Ahmed and Piper are decent and do their best but this is a case of style over substance – and the style isn’t all that.

Many, many cigarettes were harmed in the making of this film and the buttons that type the words blud, fam and bruv on the scriptwriter’s keyboard have been hammered into submission.

West London has never looked grimmer, more neonlight-lit or strewn with fag butts by one man before or since.


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