City of Tiny Lights: Film Review

I love Riz Ahmed so I obviously had to check out City of Tiny Lights, one of his first film lead performances, at the London Film Festival. At the time I was so tired, I didn’t give it a fair shake, so I went to a second screening where I could appreciate it much more. The crime noir thriller is far from perfect but Ahmed is fantastic, once again.

He plays private investigator Tommy Akhtar, who is approached one day by prostitute Melody (Cush Jumbo), whose friend Natasha has gone missing. Tommy goes to the last known place she was seen and comes across an unexpected murder scene and he starts snooping where he shouldn’t.

It is refreshing to see a grittier side of London with streets containing greasy spoons, taxi offices, mosques and pubs, for example. There are also plenty of characters you wouldn’t see in a Hollywood movie like his cricket loving father Farzad (Roshan Seth), who steals every scene, as does Tommy’s teenage acquaintance who joins an Islamic Youth League to get information.

There is also a side plot about Tommy reuniting with his old school crush (Billie Piper), whose reappearance bring up old, dark memories that may be connected to his current case. Although this was a subplot but I connected with it more and I was much more captivated by Ahmed and Piper’s brilliant performances in those scenes.

I didn’t follow the case fully to be honest, even on the second viewing. It moves very slowly and developments are few and far between, but when things do happen, it is said quickly so you can’t keep up. It’s hard remembering everyone’s names or understanding character’s motives, but I think the film is more about Tommy than the case.

Ahmed is captivating onscreen and the movie would suck without his presence because the story isn’t THAT exciting, but his character is. The film is hilarious on many occasions and quite dark in others, which don’t always quite fit together, and there were definitely too many moody shots of him smoking and contemplating life. I would still recommend checking this out if you are a fan of his work because his performance is very good.

In cinemas Friday 7th April 

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