Showcasing the talents of the venerable Bill Nighy and the lovely and talented Olivia Cooke, Juan Carlos Medina’s sophomore effort, an adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s 1994 murder mystery novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, released today on home video formats after a short limited release and VOD rollout that began in early September. The film features a tight script from Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and the Kingsman films) and great acting from Nighy, Cooke, and the rest of the fantastic cast. Fans of serial killers, traditional murder mysteries, and historical fiction will all appreciate this fantastic thriller that melds together elements of historical London, old time vaudeville stage shows, and an aesthetic akin to Sherlock Holmes.
Inspector John Kildare (Nighy) is tasked with finding out the identity of a vicious killer, identifying himself as the Limehouse Golem – “Limehouse” for the section of London being terrorized and “Golem” for the claylike creature from Jewish folklore. Among the suspects, Karl Marx (yes, THE Karl Marx), entertainer Dan Leno (based on George Wild Galvin, who performed under the name in late 1800s London), English novelist George Gissing (also, an actual historical figure), and a local playwright named John Cree. Cree’s wife, Lizzy Cree (Cooke) is simultaneously being tried from the murder of John Cree, who happens to be Kildare’s lead suspect. The complication of proving a deceased man as a serial killer adds an extra layer to the investigation, as does the circumstance surrounding Lizzy’s trial.
The story unfolds with great twists and turns all the way to the end, with Cooke and Nighy providing much of the heavy lifting, along with Douglas Booth’s Dan Leno. Playing out like a clever take on some of the actual killings before and during the “Jack the Ripper” era in London, the film – based on a novel with the same basic plot – is constructed to be one of the better films of its kind in several years, if not longer. Enough cannot be said about the acting skills on display by the entire cast. When coupled with a strong script, the film is one that deserves all of the praise it has garnered and more. Bill Nighy is at the top of his game and Cooke is as wonderful and dynamic as she demonstrated on the much lauded Bates Motel series. This is a must-see for genre fans.
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