With a story that never really elevates beyond a generic murder mystery, and a televisual style and tone more fit for CSI: Victorian London, there isn’t much to enjoy with The Limehouse Golem.
There is lots of blood though, and a surprisingly amount of song and dance. So there is definitely bits and pieces, so to speak, of compelling, if not superficial, mystery that finds a widow accused of murder while fear and uncertainty surround a series of grisly deaths. But there is too much uncertainty from the filmmakers, where a story becomes too convoluted and the consequences never seem particularly high.
A dark and dreary aesthetic is more off-putting than comprehensive, which doesn’t bode well from the start. Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) is a standard, inquisitive, brusk detective, which is to say, not at all Sherlock Holmes. He is enlisted to solve the deaths in the community of Limehouse after the jailing of Elizabeth( Olivia Cooke), who professes her innocence.
When Kildare, however, discovers a book written by the so-called Golem about murdering people – a how-to basically – the films becomes intent on jumping around in time and place with reckless abandon, resulting in a film with less urgency and twists than is required. A good deal of the story deals with the ascent of Elizabeth, born to an unmarried mother who would later being a popular entertainer and enlist with a charming, enigmatic young man.
The Limehouse Golem moves towards a predictable though somewhat interesting ending, but it can never escape its self-imposed limitations and all too familiar genre confines.