(director/writer: Neil Jordan; screenwriters: William Monahan/based on the book ‘The Black-Eyed Blonde’ by John Banville/based on the characters of Raymond Chandler; cinematographer: Xavi Jimenez; editor: Mick Mahon; music: David Holmes; cast: Liam Neeson (Philip Marlowe), Jessica Lange (Dorothy Quincannon), Diane Kruger (Clare Cavendish), Stella Stocker (Hilda), Alan Cunning (Lou Hendricks), Danny Huston (Floyd Hanson), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Cedric), Colm Meaney (Bernie Ohls), Ian Hart (Joe Green), Daniela Melchior (Lyn Peterson), François Arnaud (Nico Peterson); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Gary Levinsohn/Mark Fasano/Patrick Hibler/Alan Moloney/Philip Kim; Open Road Films; 2022-Ireland-USA-France-in English)
“I love most of Marlowe’s prior films but didn’t much care for this muddled one.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The retro classic pulp flick about Marlowe (Liam Neeson): a tough guy, a womanizer and a chain-smoking private detective, is based not on a Chandler book, but instead on a 2014 Marlowe novel by Irish writer John Banville. Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan (“Mona Lisa”/”Greta”) directs and co-writes it with William Monahan, but somehow doesn’t get it right. He won an Oscar for writing The Crying Game.
It was filmed in Barcelona and Dublin, which make poor substitutes for Los Angeles.
Jordan gets an unmemorable, lumbering and world-weary performance from a miscast Neeson, who is too old fo andr the part. Others who played Marlowe include Humphrey Bogart, James Garner, Elliott Gould and Robert Mitchum.
The period 1930s setting is stylish, even if the story is flat, sonorous and lacking in clout. I love most of Marlowe’s prior films but didn’t much care for this muddled one.
In fictional 1939 Bay City, a clone of LA, there’s a Hollywood studio in need of being saved from greedy financiers, and a town overwhelmed by dirty cops, gangsters and sex and drug trafficking (in other words, the usual corrupt things).
The femme fatales are the Irish-American heiress Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger), the daughter of the well-connected wealthy movie star Dorothy (Jessica Lange). The daughter seeks to hire Marlowe over the disappearance of her gigolo two-bit actor ex-lover (François Arnaud), as she tells Marlowe during an office visit she’s not convinced he’s dead.
On the case, Marlowe must deal with an untrustworthy client, red herrings and a few violent encounters with some of the younger rogue gangsters.
The pic draws out the usual noir themes in a Marlowe pic and revisits the same cliches but without packing the same emotional rewards for the viewer.
It’s not all bad, as the dialogue has some spunk (with lines such as “I’m sorry that it was ultimately uninteresting to talk to you”), but is disappointing because it lacks inspiration.
Colm Meaney, Alan Cumming and Danny Huston head a fine supporting cast, who get an A for effort in a film that gets a C+ for being so unexciting.
It closed the San Sebastian Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 2/21/2023 GRADE: C+