City of Tiny Lights
- Allan Hunter
- 3 April 2017
Pete Travis's thin, derivative noir wastes the talents of Riz Ahmed and Billie Piper
The notion of Riz Ahmed as a cynical, world-weary private eye prowling the mean streets of multicultural London is enough to give City of Tiny Lights a head start. Sadly, the screen version of Patrick Neate's 2006 novel (adapted by Neate himself) takes most of its cues from the era of a trench-coated Robert Mitchum and plays like the sluggish pilot for an unremarkable television series.
The charismatic Ahmed delivers the jaded banter with sarcastic ease and has the look of someone who can handle himself in a fight. He provides a strong presence as private eye Tommy Akhtar but it is the obvious plotting and tired dialogue that let the side down.
In the tradition of countless private eye yarns, Tommy is visited by a mystery woman in search of answers. Melody (Cush Jumbo) wants him to investigate the disappearance of fellow prostitute Natasha. The trail leads to a cheap hotel and the corpse of a prominent Pakistani businessman. As the plot thickens, Tommy wades into a murky tale of dodgy property deals, radical Islam and matters of concern to international security. He is also reunited with long lost love Shelley (Billie Piper) and boyhood pal Haafiz 'Lovely' Ansari (James Floyd) and a busy, predictable story eventually joins the dots between past and present, personal and political.
The secondary characters in City of Tiny Lights are either oddly cast (Vincent Regan as an American agent), or thinly sketched and only veteran actor Roshan Seth makes much of an impression as Tommy's cricket-loving, Bangladeshi-born dad. Everything else is strictly by the film noir book – from the moody, rain-swept streets to the number of times Tommy is clubbed over the head by hired thugs. We've been here far too often before, and Dredd director Pete Travis has nothing fresh to add.
General release from Fri 7 Apr.