A certain romanticism pervades stories built around the exploits of old Scotland Yard, which center on the heroic deeds and superior intellects of the detectives and police officers prowling the streets of gaslight London. The Limehouse Golem, a capable thriller based on a novel by Peter Ackroyd, is one of these nostalgic tales. Set in Victorian London, it follows Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy), a detective haunted by scandal and assigned to investigate a series of grisly slayings. Olivia Cooke plays Elizabeth Cree, a woman on trial for fatally poisoning her husband, who may be the only one who can help Kildare identify the killer, known as the Limehouse Golem. Nighy exudes nobility as Kildare; he is a man of principal, even as those around him wallow in corruption. He's also racked by refreshing doubts -- Sherlock Holmes, he isn't.
Director Juan Carlos Medina depicts a grim city perpetually shrouded in fog the color and consistency of pea soup. He makes the murders appropriately gory, but not over the top. Yet a storyline involving anti-Semitism threatens to upend the compelling detective tale. The murderer names himself after the Golem of Jewish folklore and even terrorizes a Jewish scholar, but Medina and screenwriter Jane Goldman don't have anything interesting to say about the subject. As neo-Nazis speak with renewed confidence across the U.S. and new waves of anti-Semitism roil Europe, it's hard to justify using that kind of hatred as a mere plot device. It's a fatal flaw that mars an otherwise engrossing thriller.
Juan Carlos MedinaEddie Marsan, Olivia Cooke, Bill Nighy, Douglas Booth, María ValverdePeter AckroydElizabeth Karlsen, Joanna LaurieRLJ Entertainment