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Sentimentality and the Clash don't mix in English drama 'London Town'

Sentimentality and the Clash don't mix in English drama 'London Town'
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Joe Strummer in the movie "London Town." (IFC Films)

Feeling warm and fuzzy about the early days of punk may sound like an iffy proposition, but that’s the sentiment “London Town” is after, crammed as it is with an unusual mix of Clash songs, coming-of-age sweetness and a lesson about personal responsibility. Shay (Daniel Huttlestone), a 14-going-on-15 boy with an absent hippie mom (Natascha McElhone) living in a squat and an injured double-shift-working dad (Dougray Scott) in the hospital, trades his bell bottoms and piano training for an education in leather jackets, angry guitars and late ’70s, pre-Thatcher political consciousness.

What director Derrick Borte and writer Matthew Brown have created is basically a softer, squishier “Rude Boy,” the teen roadie, quasi-documentary that starred the Clash and encapsulated a subculture. Here, Shay struggles to take care of his 6-year-old sister while falling in love with a girl (Nell Williams), but also gets helpful advice from a couple of run-ins — one in a taxi, one overnight in jail — with Joe Strummer, played with snarling, booze-fueled ebullience by Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

The fantasy of a punk icon for a friend is one thing, but the filmmakers undercut the modest liveliness of their enterprise with a save-the-day storyline that seems far removed from the roiling, anti-authoritative ethos of punk. “London Town,” to borrow from a certain foursome, isn’t “burning with boredom,” but neither is it exactly “calling.”

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‘London Town’

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Not rated

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; also  iTunes, VOD

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