Riz Ahmed and Billie Piper star in this gritty London thriller
Finally a film with a British-Asian lead which isn't just about British-Asians being 'British-Asian'.
By Shai Hussain
xRiz Ahmed plays Tommy, a private detective asked by a high-class escort to investigate her missing friend. Dragged into the seedy underbelly of London, Tommy uncovers a much larger case involving shady businesses, terrorists and the CIA.
And then there's Shelley (Billie Piper), the girl-that-got-away, who suddenly reappears in Tommy's life like a shining light. However, there's more to their failed relationship than meets the eye, as we discover through various flashbacks to when Tommy and Shelley were teenagers.
This is the greatest weakness of the film, directed by Pete Travis and penned by novelist turned screeplay writer Patrick Neate. What would have worked great as a straight-up film noir is affected by periodical trips back in time which have little relation to the plot going on in the modern day other than the coincidental involvement of the same characters.
What makes matters worse is that the juxtaposition feels like stepping out from a Hollywood thriller directed by Michael Mann into an episode of Byker Grove. This isn't due to the directing nor the actors, but the matter of what happens in the past feels so inconsequential when put next to the main crux of the film. Though even as a film noir, City Of Tiny Lights is guilty of using some outdated cliches like voice-over.
The cinematography of London is captured fantastically and it really does come across as a city of tiny lights, working to its atmospheric advantage. Unfortunately the background score sounds a little dated. Performances across the board are great, special mention to Roshan Seth who plays Tommy's elderly father.
Riz Ahmed carries the lead effortlessly, fully deserving of his current stand as the British-Asian Prince of Cinema. After The Night Of, Star Wars and now this, it's evident that the force is strong with this one.
City of Tiny Lights releases in UK cinemas April 7th