City Of Tiny Lights Review

City Of Tiny Lights

London’s been called a lot of things in its time, but City Of Tiny Lights – Riz Ahmed’s latest film – is a new one on me.

Predictably enough for a film with noir-esque pretensions, Ahmed’s anti-hero is a private detective who spends his days following his instincts and his nights drinking bourbon.

Making wisecracks throughout, Tommy Akhtar is a guy who lives off his wits… and prostitutes. Prostitutes who hire him to track down their friends who don’t come home after a night out with a punter.

So far, so clichéd.

But Akhtar doesn’t have the luxury of turning down jobs, living with and taking care of his mildly dementia riddled father as he does, so he’s soon hot on the trail of this missing Jane Doe.

But the more Tommy investigates her disappearance, the more he starts to question his own past and yet to be decided future.

Directed by Pete Travis, the man behind cult classic Dredd, City Of Tiny Lights is a pleasant enough film that yearns to stay true to its noir shaped heart.

Set in the grime of the big smoke, all the generic ingredients are all present and correct.

We’ve got the lone man haunted by his past; smart enough to make a life for himself outside of the nine-to-five world we’re kettled towards, but not to actually make himself happy.

There’s a few damsels in distress who, unsurprisingly enough, are all defined by their bodies and their looks.

And there’s of course a mystery to solve, which throws in some rather tacked on tropes du jour concerning religious extremism and state surveillance.

It’s well written to begin with, and Ahmed keeps your attention as we switch between the present and flashbacks to a defining moment from his past.

The problem lies with the third act that tries to tie everything together and doesn’t quite manage to do this convincingly.

You’ll work out the twist long before it actually arrives, making Ahmed’s supposedly savvy private eye’s blindness to what’s right in front of him hard to believe, and the pacing feels slightly off, making the film feel a little long by the end.

City Of Tiny Lights isn’t a bad watch, and there are some good moments in the first hour, but by the end it feels a little like a 60 watt bulb trying to do the work of a 100 watt one.

Jonathan Campbell

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April 2017
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