HARRY MONUMENT(director/writer/cinematographer/editor/producer: Richard Evans; music: Keith Allen Bowers; cast: Dave Draper (Keno Argyle), Ken Church (Jolly Blume), Shannon Connell (Hedda McGill), Halim Dunsky (Luis), Jim Freeman (Dan Dan Noodle), Jim Scullin (Quinlan), Beno Kennedy (Llewellyn), Michael McVay (Bradley), Drew Kampion (Mamakos), David Licastro (Asa Glass), Lynn Hays (Roxie), Nancy White (Hooker); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; Artificial City Films; 2003)
“It serves up a junk food nosh for those film buffs with a taste for noir and abstract comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Writer, director, producer Richard Evans’ shoestring budget indie Harry Monument is drenched with film noir clichés–which according to your stomach’s sensibilities you will either readily digest or develop from it an acute case of indigestion. It weighs in as an nostalgia-laced homage to the B-films of the 1940s and 1950s, as it serves up a junk food nosh for those film buffs with a taste for noir and abstract comedy. The viewer is asked to suspend disbelief to take a ride back into the glorious past of B-films, where the narrator is the protagonist gumshoe who provides a voice-over explaining what he’s thinking at all times and moves the plot line along with his take on things. You will also hear such quaint expressions throughout such as “swallow your tongue and suck the fillings out of your teeth,” “she’s the kind of woman you wouldn’t mind having around the house, that is if you have a house,” and “muddle the puddle.” It’s played as a tongue-in-cheek anachronistic parody exhibiting an outlandish plot and relying on a diverse group of cartoonish characters (such as a Chinese waiter who sleeps standing up) to keep the uninvolving story going. There’s hardly any action, as most of the storyline is delivered verbally. What little action developed is clumsily dealt with, as it revolves around the detective repeatedly getting hit over the head with a brick. But the snappy dialogue taken from the noir convention gives the film its substance and easily fits the existential bitterness covered by the likes of Woolrich and Chandler in their traditional storylines.
The film opens as private eye Harry Monument is found murdered in a Los Angeles park lying near a pile of French fries. Harry’s private eye partner Keno Argyle (Dave Draper) clues us in that urban renewal is the bane of his business, as he mentions “If you want to fight crime, go to the suburbs.” According to the private eye, business is also bad because “nobody can afford bullets.” To get by in these tough times Keno lands a job as a stand-in on a Kung Fu movie, where he gets kicked in the head by a Japanese action director and imagines himself in Los Angeles on the trail of his partner’s killer. Keno’s search leads him to an Asian siren named Hedda McGill (Shannon Connell), whose father is stealing the old bricks from the downtown buildings on Olvera Street he owns as he is demolishing the street in a scheme to pave the beach at Malibu to attract tourists. Also involved in the scheme is a sinister building inspector (Michael McVay) with a wooden leg and only one eye, a blackmailer with a number of disguises named Asa Glass (David Licastro), a bribe taking homicide detective and wannabe screenwriter (Ken Church), a valued cookbook of the murdered man, and a number of drowned Mexican midgets. The cast includes over 100 Whidbey Island actors, and the filming was done entirely on Whidbey, Lynnwood and Seattle.
REVIEWED ON 4/20/2004 GRADE: C +
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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