By August 11, 2010 1 Comments Read More →

Reading the Screen: Ken Bruen's London Boulevard

london-boulevardWilliam Monahan, writer of such films as The Departed and Body of Lies, has written and directed London Boulevard, based on Ken Bruen’s 2001 novel of the same name.

In the book, a clever riff on the classic movie Sunset Boulevard, Mitchell, an ex-con recently sprung from prison, gets entangled with an aging actress and is forced to confront the fact that it ain’t easy to bury your own violent past.

Colin Farrell plays Mitchell in the movie, which sounds about right. I’m not so sure about the decision to cast Keira Knightley to play the actress. She’s called Charlotte in the movie, but that’s a minor change compared to the big one: cutting her age from an “expensive sixty” to Knightley’s mid-twenties. Even if she’s playing older than her actual age, you’re still looking at a character in her early thirties, which seriously changes the dynamic Bruen has going in the book.

Here’s another thing that concerns me. Monahan is a fine writer — his screenplay for The Departed won an Oscar, and rightly so — but I wonder whether he can replicate the minimalistic feel of Bruen’s novel. Bruen writes like he’s been given an allowance: so many words, and that’s all he can use. Bare-bones descriptive passages, a multitude of one-sentence paragraphs, dialogue so noir you can barely see it. The book feels like a black-and-white movie made, say, sixty years ago.

The novel is narrated in the first person, too, and Bruen gives us quite a bit of this sort of thing:

Three years in prison, you lose
     and the ability to be surprised.

I think that’s brilliant, a real window into Mitchell’s mind, and I’m curious how Monahan intends to deal with Bruen’s unique prose style. The movie comes out in October.



About the Author:

David Pitt lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In addition to reviewing for Booklist, he writes a monthly column about paperback fiction and nonfiction for the Winnipeg Free Press. He has contributed to The Booklist Reader since 2010.

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