The Victorian era has provided fertile ground for cinema’s lust for murder, mystery, and debauchery, particularly around the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders. What The Limehouse Golem offers is a precursor to the Ripper case, a tale of brutal killings that were carried out apparently at random and that had East London gripped.
Based on the book by Peter Ackroyd and brought to the screen by Jane Goldman, Golem is played out half on stage in music halls and half behind closed doors in dark, unhappy homes. It’s flamboyant and surprisingly gruesome, and for the most part very good fun. It’s just a shame that it rushes through at such a pace that only a couple of the characters are properly developed, leaving others behind as two dimensional plot devices.
The two performances holding it all together are Olivia Cooke as Lizzie, a music hall star accused of murdering her husband who has posthumously become a Golem suspect, and Bill Nighy as Detective Kildare, the man tasked with solving the Golem case. Nighy is as immensely watchable as ever, providing a real grounding for what is at times a very theatrical and slightly hammy story.
The whodunnit format is always going to be gripping, and this is a tale that twists and turns at every point, putting the different suspects into the same situations over and over. Unfortunately, roughly 30 minutes before the real murderer is dramatically unveiled, it becomes incredibly apparent just who the killer is, making the final scenes drag and the ending fall completely flat.
The Limehouse Golem is riotous and gory fun, with some truly pantomime performances thrown in for good measure. It’s just a pity that the story itself isn’t quite as clever as it would have you first believe.
CAST: Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke, Eddie Marsan, Douglas Booth
DIRECTOR: Juan Carlos Medina
WRITERS: Peter Ackroyd (novel), Jane Goldman (screenplay)
SYNOPSIS: A series of murders has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times – the mythical so-called Golem – must be responsible.