Unfolding as a more grisly, campier “Masterpiece Theatre” production, “The Limehouse Golem,” based on a 1994 Victorian murder mystery by Peter Ackroyd, makes for a perfectly watchable if overtly theatrical whodunit.
With 1880s London set on edge by a gruesome series of seemingly unrelated killings, seasoned Scotland Yard detective Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy, taking over for Alan Rickman) has been dispatched to investigate. Looking for redemption of his own, Kildare has much work to do, with his key witness, music hall performer Lizzie Cree (Olivia Cooke) on trial for the fatal poisoning of her husband (Sam Reid) who happened to be on the Inspector’s short list of suspects.
Given that other potential culprits include Dan Leno (Douglas Booth), the flamboyant music hall star who took Lizzie under his protective wing, novelist George Gissing (Morgan Watkins) and Karl Marx (Henry Goodman), there’s ample opportunity for intrigue.
But while that intricately woven tapestry made for a juicy read, director Juan Carlos Medina is guilty of over-stuffing the Jane Goldman adaptation with an awfully busy mix of flashbacks and musical numbers.
Fortunately, the film has a formidable ally in Nighy, who shares with the late Rickman a well-weathered ennui that cuts through all that visual fuss to still-engaging effect.
‘The Limehouse Golem’
Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD