Juan Carlos MedinaUnited Kingdom105 minutes2016ColourEnglish
In Victorian-era London, an intrepid police inspector (Bill Nighy) investigates a series of brutal killings that seem to be linked to a fearsome creature of Jewish legend, in this atmospheric thriller based on the bestseller by Peter Ackroyd.
Based on Peter Ackroyd's Victorian London–set novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, this most English of crime thrillers has been brought to the screen by Juan Carlos Medina, best known for his eerie 2012 fantasy horror film Painless. Here, Medina puts a suitably chilling veneer, replete with Dickensian atmospherics, on a tale filled with murder and mayhem. The year is 1880 and the backdrop is London's notoriously seedy Limehouse district, home to vagrants, petty thieves, violent hooligans, and an organized criminal underworld.
A serial murderer, whose horrendous acts soon have the city in a panic, is on the loose. Inscriptions in Latin are streaked across walls in the blood of victims. The crimes are so disturbing that many attribute them to the shadowy golem of Jewish legend. An inspector named Kildaire (Bill Nighy) is brought in to solve the mystery and calm the population. Attending the trial of Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke), a music hall performer accused of poisoning her husband, Kildaire delves deep into the case and is soon hot on the trail of a deranged killer whose scribblings litter some of the books in the august British Museum.
With historical figures of the times fictionalized into Ackroyd's story (the music hall comedian and actor Dan Leno, novelist George Gissing, and Karl Marx) Medina takes meticulous care to preserve the foggy and unsettling atmosphere of late 19th-century London. With the spirits of both Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper hovering over the proceedings, Medina stops at almost nothing as he rubs our noses in the murk of a London that has itself been a character in many a murder mystery — a tradition to which his film is a welcome addition.