Hot on the heels of Eran Creevy’s slick London cat-and-mouse chase Welcome to the Punch (2013) comes George Isaac’s All Things to All Men (2013), a British crime flick with as much ambition as its title. But where Punch abstracted the nation’s capital, filtering it through layers of Hong Kong cool, Isaac’s tame thriller takes a more literal approach to the city, breaking out the tourist traps every few minutes. If it wasn’t for the presence of a talented cast and a few decent set pieces, it could almost be a tourist video. Rufus Sewell gives good grit as veteran cop Parker (that’s right, another one), who’s been playing the game for years.
However, when Parker finds himself faced with an assassin from the past (Toby Stephens), a familiar web of corruption starts to unravel – starting with the son of crime lord Corso (Gabriel Byrne). It’s passable entertainment and debut director Isaac can do action, piecing together an impressive heist and an old-school on-foot chase, but his writing is where All Things to All Men slips up royally.
Stephens enjoys the chance to play a stony-faced bastard, blast-from-the-past Julian Sands is good as a rookie learning the beat, and Byrne could play menacing gangland boss in his sleep, but when faced with corny lines like “I work alone”, even an on-form ensemble cast can only get you so far. One speech in particular is highly reminiscent of one in Curtis Hanson’s 1997 classic L.A. Confidential – and when a script’s surprise twist is this easy to guess, over-complicating the plot to imitate recent genre highpoints doesn’t do it any favours at all.
Isaacs distracts us from the stretched script by liberally peppering the screen with famous landmarks, but by the time you’ve seen someone go on the London Eye just to make a short phone call, the barrage of iconic locations cancels out the tension. You end up waiting for any other possible combinations: a shoot-out at Battersea Power Station; someone eating a sandwich by Big Ben; or reading a text message inside St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s a shame, because this recession-referencing drama is close to being quality low-key entertainment. All Things to All Men? A good film to some, but a dull film to many.