LONDON TOWN (2016) Reviews and overview

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London Town is a 2016 British film about a coming-of-age of a teenage boy. It also involves a subplot about The Clash’s Joe Strummer.

Directed by Germany-born Derrick Borte (Unhinged; H8RZ; Dark Around the Stars; The Joneses) from a screenplay co-written by Matt Brown based on the screenplay “Untitled Joe Strummer Project” by and Sonya Gildea and Kirsten Sheridan.


“Ultimately London Town is an utterly pedestrian if professional looking affair with none of the energy or urgency of the milieu in which it is set. Generic in both characters and script, anyone who has seen more than a handful of movies will find it a tedious bore unless they are specifically looking for something completely safe and familiar.” The Cleveland Movie Blog

London Town is not a film about The Clash. It aims to explore the groundbreaking band’s effect on people’s lives. That’s a worthy premise, but Brown and Borte only go through the motions. Strummer’s role in Shay’s story — to wrap it all up nicely — could have been filled by any fictional musician, not the immortal who spat out such stingingly sarcastic lines as “And after all this, won’t you give me a smile?” The Hollywood Reporter

“Directed by Derrick Borte (The Joneses), London Town contains clever camera shots and angles to enhance the edgy and claustrophobic feel as well as monotone chromatics emblazoning the late 70s aesthetic feel. A scene where punk rock fans and political activists overrun a club is filmed handheld and jerky effectively portraying the crowded and chaotic atmosphere.” Huffington Post

“More guardian angel than punk idol, this Strummer (the real one died in 2002) is a big-brother fantasy. Mr. Rhys Meyers does his own singing and convincingly mimics the legend’s intense stage presence. Yet the era’s skinhead riots and striking workers — and Strummer’s biting, pro-immigrant lyrics — are never more than window dressing in a movie that would rather scatter fairy dust than grit.” The New York Times

“When riot scenes come across as less urgent than getting the girl, you know the message has been lost. Jonathan Rhys Meyers gives a good impression as Joe Strummer, but he lacks the charisma that made the frontman such a legend. With none of the urgency or edge that embodied the Clash itself, London Town has its moments of charm but is unforgivably mainstream for a film about punk icons.” Radio Times

London Town tries to do too much with its unbelievable premise, which destroys any of the realism created by strong production design elements. It is clear that the filmmakers are fans of punk music, but the screenplay for London Town feels like a wish-fulfillment fantasy from a follower that has never grown up.” Real Movie News

“The movie belongs to Huttlestone, who bounces between responsible young man, bullied teen, and anti-establishment rebel. Ms. Williams is delightful in her role, and JRM brings the necessary hard edge to Strummer. Director Borte has a really nice eye for scenes, but probably was a bit too stingy with Clash tunes. The timing for the film is a bit unfortunate, as it’s released in the same year as the similar but superior Sing Street.” Red Carpet Crash

“While the story follows an overly familiar coming-of-age trajectory and the filmmakers make a few cartoonish missteps (including an eye-roll-inducing moment that coyly suggests Shay inspired the title London Calling), London Town is ultimately a winning and sensitively wrought evocation of a time when music provided a vital bulwark against an increasingly reactionary culture.” Slant

“Some people burn bright” and London Town wants things brighter than they should be. Factoring in London’s issues and how the Clash fits in, the film wraps everything up in a neat bow. However, London Town contains plenty of good intentions, some fantastic set design, a luminous cast anchored by Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ magnetic portrayal of Joe Strummer.” Spectrum Culture

“What is unnecessary – or, at the very least, what should be downplayed – is the presence of Joe Strummer, the lead singer of The Clash. He’s portrayed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, giving a loud, hoarse impression; the real Strummer would be horrified at this sanded-down version, who’s about as mainstream as they come. He meets Shay after some drama with a taxi, and in this fantasy, the two become very unlikely friends, which leads to a horrifyingly lame conclusion.” The Upcoming

” …one can’t help but notice the pulled punches, from the fleeting half-glimpse of drugs to the lack of palpable danger, even when gangs of National Front skinheads start crashing the scene. The story of the Clash is a fascinating one, and spotlighting a kid inspired by, but not a part of, the punk milieu has plenty of potential. But London Town just never burns brightly enough.” Variety

“Coming-of-age movie London Town contains a jarring mishmash of moods, veering as it does between urban grit (rioting punks versus skins and rubbish on the streets) and whimsical comedy (Daniel Huttlestone’s young hero driving his dad’s cab disguised as a woman to hide his age). For all its flaws, however, the film’s underlying sweetness makes it hard to dislike.” What’s on TV

Cast and characters:

Jonathan Rhys Meyers … Joe Strummer
Daniel Huttlestone … Shay Baker
Dougray Scott … Nick Baker
Natascha McElhone … Sandrine
Tom Hughes … Johnny
Nell Williams … Vivian Daniels
Anya McKenna-Bruce … Alice Baker
Kerry Howard … Penelope
Yasmine Akram … Nurse
Jack Morris … White Boy
Samuel Robertson … Tommy Gun
Jeff Leach … Ronnie
Ifan Huw Dafydd … Al
Samuel Fava … Jack
Alex Marx … Doctor
Dallas Campbell … Mr Daniels
Meredith Ostrom … Rebecca
Alex Gold … Topper Headon
Ray Gange … Roadie (Ray Gange was in Rude Boy the 1980 film that The Clash disavowed)

Technical details:

92 minutes

Fun facts:

Although it is suggested that the Buzzcocks are supporting The Clash at a gig in 1978 they only did so in 1976. By May 1978, the Buzzcocks were a high-profile band themselves with more hit singles than The Clash. Their song ‘Something Goes Wrong Again’ which is heard in the film, was a B-side of ‘Harmony in My Head’ which was released on 13th July 1979, well over a year later.

The Damned did not play at the April 30th 1978 Victoria Park Rock Against Racism festival that is featured in the film despite being name-checked.


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