A clever idea that could have worked as a novella, the urban-fantasy-cum-sci-fier "Franklyn" doesn't cut it by the bigscreen rulebook.

Emilia/Sally - Eva Green Jonathan Preest - Ryan Phillippe Milo - Sam Riley Peter Esser - Bernard Hill Pastor Bone - James Faulkner Wormsnakes - Stephen Walters Tarrant - Art Malik Margaret - Susannah York Dan - Richard Coyle Naomi - Kika Markham

A clever idea that could have worked as a novella, the urban-fantasy-cum-sci-fier “Franklyn” doesn’t cut it by the bigscreen rulebook. Shuttling between present-day London and a totalitarian, retro-futuristic city, this first feature by Brit writer-director Gerald McMorrow leaves viewers dangling for so long that most will have checked out emotionally before the big revelation an hour in. Visually striking head-scratcher — somewhere between “Blade Runner” and “V for Vendetta” in its noirish bits — looks to have more of a future as an ambitious but failed cult item than as a contempo earner. U.K. release is skedded for Jan. 30.

Been-here-before feeling starts early on as a masked figure, Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe, one-note), surveys a dystopian urban landscape, Meanwhile City, that’s cobbled together from the Batman pics and vampire movies like “Underworld.” Growling out a noirish voiceover, supported by Joby Talbot’s portentous score, Preest informs auds he’s going to kill a man.

Cut to modern-day London, where a woman, Emilia (Eva Green), is having a spat with her mom, Margaret (Susannah York). Huh? Then back to the future, as Preest roams the bustling streets of his city (part “Sweeney Todd,” part post-apocalyptic carvival) and reveals he’s out for revenge on “the Individual,” who killed an abducted girl years earlier.

Also milling around in the contempo plot soup are Milo (Sam Riley), who’s just been jilted at the altar; his best man, Dan (Richard Coyle); and Emilia, a sort of conceptual artist who’s past deadline on her latest project.

In his world, meantime, Preest is arrested and hauled in front of the fascistic head (Art Malik, smoothly sinister) of Meanwhile City’s all-powerful Ministry. Though Preest is disliked by the authorities for being “a man without religion,” he’s given free license to dispose of the Individual, who is apparently coming back to the city.

As if all this weren’t enough, back in the present, a Cambridge pastor (Bernard Hill) comes looking for his son in London and ends up at the hospital where Emilia has been taken after an attempted suicide; and Milo tracks down his childhood love, Sally (also Green), who’s now working as a teacher in leafy Ealing.

Any initial curiosity built up by the opening reels is soon squandered by the pic’s relentless time-shuffling and failure to provide auds with even the smallest lifeboats to hang onto. In addition to providing no background to characters, the script throws around ideas (Meanwhile City is dominated by religion) without ever developing them.

Script’s surprise reveal is nowhere big enough a payoff for an hour’s perpetual tease. Finale, bringing both worlds together, is both physically and dramatically mishandled.

The foolishness of casting Phillippe (taking over a role originally slotted for Ewan McGregor) in a part where he spends 80% in a mask is matched by the miscasting of Riley — so good as singer Ian Curtis in “Control,” but here utterly milquetoast as the male co-lead. Green growls her way through as the arty, mixed-up Emilia, and beams sweetness as Sally, but can’t make sense of either character dramatically.

With a background in musicvideos and commercials, McMorrow delivers a handsome widescreen tech package on a modest £6 million ($10.4 million) reported budget, with inventive production and costume design by Laurence Dorman and Leonie Hartard. But take off the handsome wrapping and there’s nothing inside this box to hook paying customers.

Popular on Variety



Production: A Contender Films release of a HanWay Films, Recorded Picture Co., U.K. Film Council, Film4 presentation, in association with Aramid Entertainment. (International sales: HanWay Films, London.) Produced by Jeremy Thomas. Executive producers, Peter Watson, Peter Carlton, Simon Fawcett. Co-producers, Alexandra Stone, Nick O'Hagan. Directed, written by Gerald McMorrow.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Ben Davis; editor, Peter Christelis; music, Joby Talbot; production designer, Laurence Dorman; lead art director, David Doran; costume designer, Leonie Hartard; sound (Dolby Digital), Simon Hayes, John Hayes; additional camera, Rob Hardy; special effects supervisor, David Harris; visual effects supervisors, Richard Briscoe, Ryan Cook; visual effects, Double Negative; stunt coordinator, Paul Herbert; assistant director, Mick Ward; casting, Nina Gold. Reviewed at London Film Festival (New British Cinema), Oct. 16, 2008. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Emilia/Sally - Eva Green Jonathan Preest - Ryan Phillippe Milo - Sam Riley Peter Esser - Bernard Hill Pastor Bone - James Faulkner Wormsnakes - Stephen Walters Tarrant - Art Malik Margaret - Susannah York Dan - Richard Coyle Naomi - Kika Markham

More Film

  • 'Blue Story' Review: A British Invasion

    'Blue Story': Film Review

    The blockbusters will be postponed, the indie films in many cases will head straight to streaming. But even before the apple cart of movie distribution got tipped over, “Blue Story” had traced an unlikely path. , it was written and directed by Andrew Onwubolu, the London-based rapper, producer, actor, and director who bills himself as [...]

  • Battle of Jangsari

    Megan Fox’s ‘Battle of Jangsari’ Inks Multiple Sales Deals

    Korean-made war film “Battle of Jangsari,” which features Megan Fox in a key role as a front line reporter, is set to play in multiple European and Asian territories. The film already had a deal with WellGo USA for North America. Seoul-based sales agent, Finecut said that it had additionally licensed the film to Pandastorm [...]

  • Doc Edge 2019 Forum

    New Zealand’s Doc Edge Festival To Shift Online

    Doc Edge, New Zealand’s annual factual film festival, will this year become an online-only event. Instead of cancelling due to the disruptions to production and travel caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the festival will move all screenings and events into the virtual space. The virtual festival is scheduled to run between May 28 and June [...]


    SAG-AFTRA Health Plan Cuts Premiums by 50% Due to Coronavirus Crisis

    The SAG-AFTRA Health Plan has cut 50% from the cost of premiums for the second quarter in response to the coronavirus crisis. SAG-AFTRA members were notified of the reduction on Wednesday via a message from SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and national executive director David White. They said the cuts would cover participants who had been [...]

  • Dolly Parton at the Grand Ole

    Film News Roundup: Dolly Parton Donates $1 Million for Research on Coronavirus Cure

    In today’s film news roundup, Dolly Parton makes a donation for coronavirus cure, Howie Mandel and Ashlee Simpson join the voice cast of “Pierre The Pigeon-Hawk” and American Documentary launches an artists emergency fund. RESEARCH DONATION Dolly Parton has donated $1 million to Nashville’s Vanderbilt Hospital to help aid research to find a cure for [...]

  • Amy Adams Jennifer Garner

    Jennifer Garner, Amy Adams on 'Save With Stories,' Helping Children During Coronavirus Quarantine

    Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams are opening their contact lists for their new endeavor to help children during the coronavirus pandemic. Not long after the U.S. came to a screeching halt because of COVID-19, the two superstars launched “SaveWithStories,” an Instagram account that features celebrities and other notable figures reading children’s books. The line-up already [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content