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Limehouse Golem, The


Stars: Olivia Cooke, Bill Nighy, Douglas Booth, Maria Valverde, Eddie Marsan, Sam Reid, Daniel Mays

Director: Juan Carlos Medina

Not so much a Ripper-style mystery as a showcase for young actress Cooke, who gives a tour-de-force performance as the guttersnipe in 1880s London who becomes a music-hall star. Her chirpy personality makes this transformation altogether convincing.

Cooke plays Lizzie Cree, the central character. When her abusive husband John (Reid) is poisoned, Lizzie, who has quit the halls, is charged with his murder.

At the same time, London's Limehouse district is shaken by a series of grisly killings, to which the ageing Chief Inspector Kildare (a restrained Nighy), long passed over for promotion because of suspected sexual proclivities, finds himself assigned by those waiting to see him fail.

One of the chief suspects in the Golem murders, besides John Cree himself, is cross-dressing music-hall giant Dan Leno (Booth), who has mentored Lizzie's career, trying to steer her clear of such lecherous advances as those of the troupe's manager Uncle (Marsan). Kildare is sympathetic to Lizzie and believes that, if he can prove the now-dead Cree was the Golem, then Lizzie, if found guilty, may be spared the hangman's noose.

Though there are times when it feels the film is failing to sustain an overall momentum, this is a necessary adjunct of its jigsaw-like structure, which mingles past and present events.

Cooke's portrayal is extraordinary, but Booth is also very good as Leno, whose catchphrase 'Here we are again!' is to play a key role in Jane Goldman's ingenious if perhaps over-visceral (the film is lucky to escape an 18 certificate) plot.

Gloomy, fogbound Limehouse locations are predictably well realised, as are the garishly bawdy trappings of the cramped, atmospheric music-hall.

With Keira Knightley, Felicity Jones and Carey Mulligan all getting a touch long in the tooth, UK cinema needs another major young female star and, well, 'Here we are'.

David Quinlan

UK 2016. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour by Panalux.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 28 Aug 2017