London Kills Me
1991, R, 107 min. Directed by Hanif Kureishi. Starring Justin Chadwick, Steven Mackintosh, Emer McCourt, Brad Dourif.
REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., Oct. 23, 1992
Screenwriter/novelist Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, and The Buddha of Suburbia) makes his directorial debut in a rambling tableau of the gritty, drug-saturated side of street life in London's West End. Kureishi's film doesn't offer much in the way of presenting a cohesive narrative trajectory, only the barest of a bare-bones plot concerning a young street dealer and junkie (Chadwick) who needs an acceptable pair of shoes to secure a job waiting tables (as a hopeful means of achieving a one-way ticket out of the gutter and into the “ordinary life”) in a trendy restaurant that is run by an American (Dourif). Aside from this, what's left is sort of a grim take on The Young Ones: episodic slices of a rag-tag band of lost youths living a pointless life on the edge in a trashed-out crash pad, staying perpetually stoned, making the rounds of pubs and Rasta Acid Houses, and hustling Young Urban Professionals who come slumming for drugs. Yet although the characterizations are colorful and credible, they remain oddly impenetrable. This is because Kureishi's muddled direction almost totally obscures his Marxist realism agenda of establishing viewer empathy for the British working class who are exploited by the elite in one form or another. The result is that about after an hour into the film, we still don't know who these characters really are, where they came from, what motivates them, and most of all, do we really care? To make matters worse, Kureishi sprinkles tidbits of oddball surrealism a la David Lynch throughout his film, which does absolutely nothing to enhance the narrative visually or thematically (cases in point: the young dealer/junkie's stepfather who has an Elvis memorial gun shrine in the English countryside, and the young woman who ritualistically mutilates herself with razor blades). Perhaps you have to be in a chemical fog to truly appreciate London Kills Me. Otherwise, it won't kill you, just bore you instead.