The Limehouse Golem Review
By David Kempler
Short of Anthropomorphosis
Juan Carlos Medina's "The Limehouse Golem," set in 1880s London, is an examination of two stories, both of which focus on murder. One part concerns a domestic poisoning. The other is a kind of Jack The Ripper tale about a series of grisly murders.
It is a bit of a hodgepodge that has a mixture of actual historical figures and fictional characters. It's also quite a cluster of flashbacks within flashbacks, that at times had me trying to figure out where and when we were at any given moment. The extremely thick English accents didn't aid my ability to keep up.
John Cree (Sam Reid) is an unsuccessful playwright unexpectedly found dead at home. As is usually the case, the first person we suspect of being involved with his death is the one closest to him. Elizabeth (Olivia Coke) is his wife and the fact that there were known problems in the marriage paints her as suspect number one.
Meanwhile, a new inspector has been assigned at Scotland Yard to investigate the serial killer that has been named Limehouse Golem. The inspector is John Kildare (Bill Nighy), and he is not comfortable with his assignment. A few more highly thought of detectives have already failed to solve the series of murders, leaving him wondering how he will be the answer. Complicating his task are the rumors that he might be homosexual.
The two plot lines quickly merge and Kildare finds himself believing the already imprisoned Elizabeth's story as she awaits her pending trial on murder charges. What causes the plots to merge is the murdered Mr. Cree becoming a suspect in the series of murders, in Kildare's view. Clouding everything is a seemingly endless series of story paths that wind up dead ends. Director Medina is perhaps too much of a fan of red herrings. The effect leads you to doubt everything you see while you wait for the truth. By the time you find out what's really going on, you can't help but feel manipulated to the point of resentment.
Despite its shortcomings, there are good aspects to "The Limehouse Golem." The cast is universally good, especially Nighy, Cooke, and Eddie Marsan in a supporting role. I've become a big fan of Marsan over the last few years and his role here adds a nice notch to his growing portfolio of work. The film is also beautiful to look at, so it's worth giving a nod to Simon Dennis as the cinematographer.
Nevertheless, it's all just a bit too cluttered to recommend. In Jewish folklore, a golem is an anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from inanimate matter. However, this golem never does come to life.