Heartless (18)

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The Independent Culture

Perplexing. Philip Ridley's film starts out as a portrait of urban alienation before lurching into an occult horror trip.

Set in east London, it stars Jim Sturgess as nice-guy photographer Jamie, whose painful shyness derives from the purplish heart-shaped birthmark on his face. Late one night he photographs a hoodie whose face seems to be that of a reptilian, razor-toothed monster. What follows is a not entirely comprehensible mixture of broken-Britain realism and nutso fantasy. First, Jamie's mother and next-door neighbour are brutally murdered; then he enters an unforeseen Faustian pact with a certain Papa B who claims to be "the patron saint of random violence" and employs Eddie Marsan as his weapons man. At times you wonder whether Philip Ridley has a clear idea of where his film is going; elements of romance, of familial melodrama, of Grand Guignol struggle for a foothold into coherence. Those lizard-headed monsters, for example – are they real? If not, how do they manage to improvise flame-throwers? Ridley has attracted some top-notch performers, including Timothy Spall and Noel Clarke, but they are squandered in a film that can't decide on an identity.