Following the phenomenal success of 'The Departed', Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan has decided to try his hand at a bit of directing. Based on Ken Bruen's novel of the same name, this gritty British crime drama fails miserably at reaching the Scorsese standard. With an abundance of second-hand ideas, the title doesn't help - recalling Billy Wilder's 1950 masterpiece 'Sunset Boulevard'. '

In Bruges' the painful prequel here we come...

After serving some time for GBH in Pentonville Prison Mitchell (Farrell) decides to go straight. Upon his release he is conveniently offered a job in a Holland Park mansion, working for a reclusive movie star. Charlotte's (Knightley) only company is that of her gatekeeper Jordan (Thewlis), who also happens to be a recovering drug addict. And let's just say he's not finding it easy.

After accepting a gig as bodyguard for the lonely actress, it isn't long before Mitchell's past comes back to haunt him. It is at this point that the storyline and subplots start to become confusing. From Mitchell's relationship with his idiotic pal Billy (Chaplin) who coaxes him into collecting debts, to his unfortunate acquaintance with gang boss Gant (Winstone), it is difficult to keep track of the character's whereabouts.

Then there are even more pointless subplots such as Mitchell's association with the local homeless guy who he clearly cares about, although we never know why. But the worst and probably most unclear story is that of his wayward sister, a successful gold-digger and possible alcoholic. The only common theme found in all of these stories is that they all deal with crime. Most of them, if not all, should have been hacked at the planning stages.

Colin Farrell's character seems lost throughout this movie and never fully connects with the audience. By the end of the flick you couldn't care less about what happens to him or his family. However, despite his dodgy Cockney accent, his typical bad boy image and strapping good looks make this film bearable. Even with grey hair Colin shows that he still has it going on.

Surprisingly, Knightley only passes through the film a handful of times, and uses her pout and cheekbones to disguise the fact that this is a one-dimensional performance. There was such huge scope and potential for her to pull-off a convincing romance with Farrell's Mitchell, yet it is one of the most lacklustre liaisons in quite some time. It is a sad day when you would rather watch Kristen Bell frolic around after some unfortunate fellow.

Although Thewlis is the highlight of the movie, providing some much needed comic relief, he is wasted for the most part. Friel's gags are too forced to even make you break a chuckle; however she pulls off the part of the sexy sister effortlessly.

If it's any consolation the soundtrack is a great distraction to the muddled storylines and is even worth downloading. There is also one excellent scene where we are shown an array of vintage 1960 cars in a garage, only to later find Farrell test-driving an open-top classic across Waterloo Bridge. That aside, the movie is far from a visual feast.

Definitely not Oscar material, this directorial debut is disappointing to say the least. At times I wished they had locked me up and thrown away the key.

Laura Delaney