Yikes—What a Mess!

The Limehouse Golem
(UK, 109 min.)
Dir. Juan Carlos Medina, Writ. Jane Goldman
Starring: Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke, Eddie Marsan, Douglas Boothe, Sam Reid
Bill Nighy and Olivia Cooke star in The Limehouse Golem
Photo by Nick Wall
There are two or three great movies somewhere in The Limehouse Golem, but, holy crap, do they ever get lost in this nonsensical nightmare. Plot the first is a Jack the Ripper-ish bloodbath in which Scotland Yard inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) investigates a string of grisly murders committed in a dark corner of London. The deeds are so heinous and gruesome that people believe that only a monster could have committed them.

Murder most foul occurs when The Limehouse Golem flits and darts from that movie to another in which Kildare interviews Lizzie Cree (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’s Olivia Cooke), a woman suspected of poisoning her husband, who might actually have been the killer Kildare seeks. Her backstory, a kind of cradle-to-grave tragedy involving a frothy mom, a pervy dwarf, lesbian desires, backstage rivalry, etc., captivates Kildare when there may or may not be a murder on the loose beheading and gutting Londoners and painting the town red.

While director Juan Carlos Medina flips back and forth between the channel showing the murder show and the one showing Judge Judy, images flicker offering dramatic commentary (which disappears after about two sketches) and horrifying interludes in which the suspects in Kildare’s case and the agents in Lizzie’s tale of woe pull back the curtains on their deviant personalities. The Limehouse Golem doesn’t deliver on any front, though, since the clunky exposition-heavy dialogue ensures minimal tension, while the fleeting presence of all about two or three characters keeps the mystery angle predictable.

There are some great performances here, particularly Douglas Booth’s theatrically flamboyant turn as a gaudy actor, Nighy’s inquisitive sleuth, and Cooke’s mysterious cypher, while the hodgepodge of elements in the film could pull something brilliant out of The Limehouse Golem’s hat if it were, say, a miniseries or a coherent serial killer flick about performance and identity. Medina certainly gets the period right in terms of costumes and setting, but…yikes—what a mess!

The Limehouse Golem opens in theatres Oct. 13.