At The Movies
City of Tiny Lights ★★
Director: Pete Travis
Cast: Riz Ahmed, Billie Piper, Cush Jumbo, James Floyd, Roshan Seth
‘City of Tiny Lights’ is a British neo-noir film directed by Pete Travis (Dredd) and stars Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as the main role of Tommy. Tommy is a down on his luck private investigator who works out of a shabby office somewhere in West London. A chain smoker and an avid White Horse Whiskey aficionado he could easily fit in with the cast of a Humphrey Boghart film. When not handling a case he takes care of his cricket obsessed ailing father in their small council flat. He is a quiet and reserved man but has enough wit and intelligence to give a sharp tongued retort if the situation so required.
The story begins as Tommy is hired to find a missing Russian prostitute by her friend and co-worker Melody (Cush Jumbo). Tommy starts by looking for the client the prostitute was last seen with. Having tracked the client down to a hotel room, Tommy discovers that the man has been murdered, the prostitute is still missing and that he may have bitten off more then he could chew.
What follows is a story filled with some intrigue, a love interest, radical Islamic clerics, unscrupulous CIA spooks and conniving land developers. And as if Tommy didn’t have enough on his plate he’s also being haunted by an event in his past that unfolds as the film goes on.
‘City of Tiny Lights’ is Travis’ attempt at making a neo-noir film with all the tropes of a classic noir (protagonist narration, gritty settings, femme fatale etc.) mixed in with a stylistic look and contemporary subject matters such as terrorism and economic disparity.
Unfortunately all these and other aspects of the film did not gel well together. The two biggest problems with this film are the pacing and structure of the script. The story moves along at a meandering pace, and at times felt like it stopped completely.
Time is spent on stylistic shots that add nothing to the story and feel rather indulgent. To make matters worse the antagonist of the main story and the conclusion to the subplot both become self-evident somewhere around the halfway mark. This leaves the audience with little to look forward to or discover as the rest of the story plays out.
While the soundtrack is good and fits the atmosphere of the overall film, I felt the hand-held camera style that it was shot in did not mesh well with the noir genre and at times made the film difficult to watch.
The one redeeming quality here is Riz Ahmed’s performance. It’s safe to say that we will be seeing a lot more of this talented actor in the future. So if you are a fan of his work and want to see more of him then check out ‘City of Tiny Lights’. But if you’re in a mood for an intriguing and suspenseful neo-noir detective story, then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.