Reformed jailbird Mitchel (Colin Farrell) finds himself with the unlikely job of protecting reclusive starlet Charlotte (Keira Knightley), who is holed up in her Holland Park mansion. However, it's difficult to let go of the old life... and brutal mobster Gant (Ray Winstone) requires his services as an enforcer. With menaces. Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan's directorial debut rises above the usual geezer retreads thanks to an inventive script and a strong turn from Farrell as a reluctant prisoner of the past.
Since Guy Richie's geezer heyday the laddish London caper movie has atrophied into a dull parade of cliches punctuated by the odd expletive or grisly killing. They've the allure of a week-old pot of whelks.
So it's intriguing to see American screenwriter William Monahan - who won an Oscar for his work on The Departed - make his directorial debut with a London-set mobster movie.
His industry clout has certainly attracted a bevy of A-Listers including Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone and David Thewlis. Crikey, Anna Friel only gets a handful of lines.
And he can also pen a sharp line - the finest being a Liverpudlian hoodlum appealing for everyone - ie non-scousers - to "calm down" after a mouthy thug has just been glassed.
Channelling Danny Dyer with A-Levels, Farrell plays Mitchel, a youthful hardman who, after being sent down for GBH, is determined to go straight after three years in the slammer.
But it's not that easy. Moments after being released from Pentonville, his wired buddy Billy (Chaplin) has embroiled him in borderline dodginess and also brought Mitchel's expertise to the notice of gangster kingpin Gant (Winstone).
However, Mitchel has other ideas. He finds himself recruited as bodyguard/confidante to actress Charlotte (Knightley), a Norma Desmond-style recluse whose London mansion is besieged by gloating paparazzi.
Falling for Charlotte, he renounces his bad boy past life and tentatively sees a new future. However, Gant is determined his new golden boy won't slip through his fingers.
Thanks to a top-notch cast, which also features Thewlis as a stoned luvvie and Friel as Mitchel's sluttish sot of a sister, plus a wry script, this stands head and shoulders above recent geezer fare.