Recently released from prison, ex-London gangster Mitchel (Colin Farrell) is determined to go straight. Unfortunately, his friend Billy (Ben Chaplin), a numbskulled loan shark, has other plans for him, but a chance for salvation beckons when he lands a job guarding reclusive movie star Charlotte (Keira Knightley) from the paparazzi.
Mired in the London underworld, Mitchel nevertheless struggles to keep his nose clean, and when a homeless friend is beaten to death, his instinct for revenge brings him close to reverting to his old ways. Worst still, psychotic crime boss Rob Gant (Ray Winstone) wants Mitchel to join his crew, and refuses to take no for an answer.
As Mitchel's relationship with Charlotte deepens, Gant becomes increasingly insistent, giving the ex-con no choice but to fight back with equal brutality.
Director William Monahan is best known as the writer of a number of Hollywood hits, most notably Oscar-winning crime thriller The Departed. His first crack at getting behind the camera, London Boulevard is considerably less accomplished than the Scorsese smash, but has its moments of grimy cool.
Based on the book by Irish author Ken Bruen, there's more than a touch of Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way in this story of arrested redemption, and while the script is burdened by that hoary Brit gangster cliché- overuse of the C-word - the ensemble cast make it work for the most part.
Winstone is as captivating as ever, even in a role that he could deliver in a deep coma, and support from Anna Friel as Mitchel's gold-digging sister and David Thewlis as a curiously amoral actor adds entertainment value.
Farrell is fine as the morally tortured Mitchel and, as his outstanding performance in In Bruges showed, he's an actor who needs a strong script and director to truly shine. Tellingly, Knightley struggles to convince as a hounded actress, but as long as you can overlook the plot holes, London Boulevard is ultimately a diverting trawl through the capital's unseemly underworld.