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Review: Trashy thriller 'London Fields' should have stayed on the shelf

Review: Trashy thriller 'London Fields' should have stayed on the shelf
Theo James, left, and Billy Bob Thornton in the film "London Fields." (Steffan Hill / GVN Releasing)

The aggressively awful “London Fields” is, once again, proof that not every successful novel should become a movie. Especially if it’s going to wind up as tedious and pretentious as director Mathew Cullen’s flashy-trashy transfer of author Martin Amis’ celebrated allegory, which Amis adapted with Roberta Hanley.

The film, shot in 2013 but long mired in legal wranglings, follows Samson Young (Billy Bob Thornton, miscast), a blocked, inexplicably dying New York novelist — and our long-winded narrator — who arrives in 1999 London to write his final book, having just traded flats with a successful British author (Jason Isaacs).

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Inspiration for Samson’s tome arrives via gorgeous upstairs neighbor Nicola Six (Amber Heard), who might as well be wearing a neon “femme fatale” sign.

She’s a psychic of sorts who has predicted the date and circumstances of her own murder. But will it come at the hands of one of her dueling lovers: snarling petty crook and darts champ Keith (an unrecognizable, unbearable Jim Sturgess) or kindly, prince-handsome (yet clearly messed up) Guy (Theo James)? Or will the dreary Samson himself prove the killer?

It all makes for a phony, unpleasant ride sheathed in a visually garish, apocalyptic-noir vibe that serves more to annoy and distract than enlighten — much less entertain.

And yes, that’s Johnny Depp, scarred and squirrely, as the lunatic loan shark, Chick.

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‘London Fields’

Rated: R, for sexual content/nudity, language throughout, some violence and drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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