If you’re looking for a biopic of The Clash, then look elsewhere. Joe Strummer might be a character in London Town, but he’s on the periphery, skirting the main narrative and appearing as a ‘fairy godmother’ type figure to the film’s young protagonist. There’s some bait and switch going on here, this is a teenage romance pitched as a punk flick. You won’t find no Rude Boy frolics here – there’s probably more grit in The One Direction Story.
Derrick Borte’s film is a coming of age tale about Shay (Daniel Huttlestone), a fifteen year old growing up on the outskirts of London in the 1970s. His parents (Dougray Scott and Natascha McElhone) have split and he’s trying to find his identity when he stumbles across the music of The Clash along with young punk Vivian (Nell Williams) and his life is forever changed.
Competently made and well acted, London Town isn’t a bad movie. However, oddly enough for a film based around the punk movement, it lacks serious punch and it’s difficult to discern the film’s target audience. Is it for teenagers who would likely have no interest in the 1970s and punk music, or people from that era who would be too old to care for a story about young love? Having watched it, I still don’t have a clue. Maybe it’s because it’s trying to be a punked-up version of Billy Elliot – minus the ballet. Maybe it’s for enthusiasts of The Clash, eager to check out Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ turn as the band’s charismatic frontman Joe Strummer. Rhys Meyers is good in the role, but it’s a small part and he only has a handful of scenes. He commendably does his own singing and London Town only comes to life when it’s belting out The Clash’s hits.
Ultimately, I can’t be too hard on London Town as it’s a solid enough film and the young cast is good. However, it’s as predicable as it is unoriginal and there’s nothing new on display. I found myself looking at my watch a few times wondering ‘should I stay or should I go?’. Maybe someone will decide to cast Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Joe Strummer in a better movie – and maybe they’ll give his bandmates some dialogue too.
And another thing – shouldn’t this have been called London Calling?