The Limehouse Golem
A dark murder mystery set in the murky streets of Victorian London.
National treasure Bill Nighy isn’t necessarily the first actor that comes to mind to play a sullen Victorian police detective who may or may not be grappling with his sexuality, but he actually does a splendid job as the lead in The Limehouse Golem.
Set in the grimy streets of 19th century east London, Scotland Yard’s Inspector John Kildare (Nighy) is newly assigned to a grizzly murder case - that of a mysterious serial killer who goes by the name 'Golem', who has quickly entered the psyche of the petrified residents of Limehouse.
After a series of prostitutes and an elderly Jewish scholar are killed, the Golem’s pièce de résistance comes in the form of a slain family, who live at a notorious address that was once the scene of another massacre years earlier.
Kildare and Constable George Flood (Daniel Mays) follow the Golem’s bloody trail, and whittle the killer’s identity down to four possible suspects; music hall star Dan Leno (Douglas Booth), Karl Marx (Henry Goodman), the grandaddy of Marxism, novelist George Gissing (Morgan Watkins), and fictional character John Cree (Sam Reid) who has recently been poisoned to death, with his wife the main suspect for his murder.
Cree’s wife Lizzie (Olivia Cooke), a former music hall darling, is put on trial for the playwright’s poisoning, and after taking the stand, her character is picked apart by sneering lawyers because of her impoverished and tough upbringing.
John Kildare, a modern thinker way ahead of his time, wants to help Lizzy and save her from the gallows, as he’s certain she holds the key to The Limehouse Golem.
She agrees to tell the inspector what she knows, and recounts her story from the abuse she suffered as a child, to the fame and fortune she garnered as Leno’s protégé and friend.
From here the story intersects between Lizzy’s colourful and vibrant rise to the top of the music hall game, to her hopeless present, as Kildare and Flood race against time to unmask the monster haunting the streets of East London.
The Limehouse Golem is a fun murder mystery, that fills a Ripper Street-shaped hole, and fans of the stylish Amazon Video-produced series will lap up the murderous goings on in Limehouse, just a stone’s throw away from Ripper Street’s Whitechapel setting.
The events depicted actually take place before the Ripper terrorised London’s women of the night, but the sense of foreboding is familiar.
While certain aspects of the movie, based on Peter Ackroyd’s 1994 novel, miss the mark, there are plenty of other moments that more than make up for it.
Nighy, Cooke and especially Booth, who proves to be an impressive actor away from his typically less than demanding roles, put in brilliant performances, and are backed up by a superb supporting cast, including Eddie Marsan as Music Hall manager Uncle.
Fusing together reality with fiction, with a top-notch cast to boot, director Juan Carlos Medina brings to life the bleak streets of Victorian London. Taking in opium dens, backstreet boozers and even the British Museum, The Limehouse Golem may not be a tense thriller, but it’s an enjoyable feature that won’t leave cinemagoers disappointed.
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