London

Cast:
Chris Evans as Syd
Jason Statham as Bateman
Jessica Biel as London
Joy Bryant as Mallory
Isla Fisher as Becca
Kelli Garner as Maya
Nicole Andrews as Nurse Stacey
Ned Bellamy as Luke
Dane Cook as Cockblocker
Kat Dennings as Annika
Matt Felker as Nipple man
John Newton as Josh
Leelee Sobieski as French Woman

Directed by Hunter Richards

Summary:
Often in danger of being overcome by its own pretensions, Hunter Richards’ parade of sex, drugs and pretty young things is saved by the amazing cast of young talent assembled, many of them doing things we haven’t seen them do before.

Story:
When Syd (Chris Evans) learns that his ex-girlfriend London (Jessica Biel) is leaving town, he decides to crash her going-away party, but then winds up hiding in the bathroom with a crazy British businessman named Bateman (Jason Statham) and a huge pile of cocaine, visited by all sorts of strange characters.

Analysis:
There are far worse ways you can start your filmmaking debut than to have two of the hottest young actors in Hollywood having sex, but that’s exactly what Hunter Richards does in his new dramedy. The “London” of the title is the name of the female part of this erotic scene, played by Jessica Biel, and not surprisingly, she’s object of obsession for Chris Evan’s Syd, who months after breaking up with her has not been able to cope and is dealing with the situation in not particularly productive ways.

When Syd learns that London is leaving town, he crashes her going-away party, but too scared to find out that she doesn’t love him anymore, Syd hides in the bathroom with Bateman, a British businessman who lays out a huge amount of cocaine for anyone who stops by to visit. It’s entertaining to watch the stream of characters that invade Syd’s safehouse to offer their opinion on his predicament, as we see squeaky clean actors like Kelli Garner and Joy Bryant behave very badly, effectively discarding any stereotypes established from their past roles.

Most of all, it’s amusing to watch Evans and Statham, nemeses in the 2004 thriller “Cellular,” facing off again in such a different setting, especially since they look so different. The usually clean-cut Evans takes on a more haggard and unshaven appearance, in this role which allows him to show off far more range than what is necessary to play the Human Torch, and Jason Statham gives the strongest dramatic performance of a career full of so many comic characters. Although Bateman has more hair than “The Transporter”‘s Frank Martin, this is a far more eclectic role, which allows Statham to show off some vulnerability as he argues with Evans about love, sex, and life’s other big mysteries. The pivotal moment in their confrontational relationship is when Bateman confesses his secret obsession for being an S&M submissive, discarding the last vestiges of Statham’s normal stereotyped role.

The film cuts between these bathroom tête-á-têtes and flashback scenes of Syd and London, having the type of discussions that never bode well for a relationship, and over the course of its slow erosion, their arguments start getting very ugly, like the more jarring discussions in “Closer” or “Eyes Wide Shut.” Still, this is mostly a dialogue heavy talking heads movie where not a lot happens beyond those conversations, and the lack of sympathetic characters makes it even more uncomfortable to watch.

Biel does the least to sully her image, although her male fans should appreciate her nudity-free sex scenes and her various states of undress. The equally vivacious Isla Fisher from “Wedding Crashers” gives another great comic performance as the party’s neurotic host and London’s best friend, who spends the entire movie freaking out about Syd being there, and comedian Dane Cook even shows up to hit on Biel as a character referred to quite appropriately as “c*ckblocker.”

The whole thing is pretty nuts, but at least it starts to come together at the end, where Syd and London finally confront each other. After an altercation that almost breaks up the party, they get a chance to talk quietly, and after seeing all the ugliness that broke up their relationship and all of the negative people that surround them, their conversation is actually rather touching. The film ends on a romantic note, as Syd chases London to the airport in a scene eerily reminiscent of “Undiscovered,” but thankfully, there are more than a few interesting ideas scattered amongst the film’s drug-addled conversations to make this somewhat worthwhile.

The Bottom Line:
While this dramatic talking heads movie certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no denying that Chris Evans and Jason Statham give shining performances far beyond anything they’ve seemed capable of from their past work.

London opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

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