This is a kind of minor, low rent reimagining of the Faust legend, imbued with timid horror theatrics that fail to make one shiver. It's suitably atmospheric though in portraying life in seedy East London, where tower block dwellers are constantly threatened, unable to feel safe at night due to the odd thug or two. Or is that demon?
Sturgess plays Jaime, a tormented young guy with a large birthmark that covers a third of his face. Because of this he believes he is unattractive to women and is therefore lacking in confidence. He is drawn into the web of the dark and mysterious shaggy haired Papa B (Mawle), a Lucifer-type figure who inhabits the old flat Jaime's dad used to live in. Mr B has a proposition for him. If Jaime causes some nasty carnage, the devilish villain will make his birthmark go away, thereby paving the way for him to be much more socially adept and confident in fully experiencing life.
A deal is struck, but after being visited by "weapons expert" Marsan, Jaime is forced into mudering an individual and removing his heart, placing it on the steps of the local church. Jaime does this after embarking on a relationship with attractive model Poesy – his birthmark now gone – but soon the machiavellian Papa demands him to commit another murder, that of his young paramour. Is all this actually happening? Or is it the demented state of Jaime's mind we're being shown? Either way, you won't care. It's a deliberately paced tale that never catches fire and never makes sense. Devoid of internal logic, Heartless strives to make you jump out of your seat with a few jolts but these fail to connect when the storyline is so unpersuasive. It's shot on film, rather than digital video, which it proudly makes reference to at one point, and indeed looks smooth despite the grimy settings, but the sombre. self important tone fails to compel or scare. A respectfully intentioned affair that sadly doesn't work.
EXTRAS ★★½ An audio commentary with writer/director Ridley; a making-of featurette; photo galleries; two music videos; the theatrical trailer.