February 15th, 2023
STARRING: LIAM NEESON, DIANE KRUGER, JESSICA LANGE, DANNY HUSTON, ALAN CUMMING
DIRECTED BY: NEIL JORDAN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The final result of Neil Jordan’s Marlowe is instantly depressing. Here is a noir picture, with an Oscar winning director at the helm, Oscar winning screenwriter William Monahan, and a cast filled with Oscar winners and nominees. It’s not that you expect the production to be flawless, but you do want movies of this material and stature to succeed. The noir is a faded genre and in Marlowe it sets it back even further.
The setting is 1930’s Los Angeles, where private detective Philip Marlowe (Liam Neeson) is ready for any job to come along. His next mystery is offered by a red dressed woman named Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger), a wealthy heiress, who wants Marlowe to find her lover Nico (Francois Arnaud) who is supposed to be dead. Seems like a standard task but with the job comes with baggage/ That includes her mother Dorothy Cavendish (Jessica Lange chewing up scenes), a drug dealer named Lou Hendricks– played by Alan Cumming– and Floyd Hanson (Danny Huston) the head of the social club and rejecting Marlowe’s investigation. Each character that we meet is mixed in the mystery in some way and it’s up to Marlowe to figure out exactly what’s going on.
From an aesthetic standpoint Marlowe achieves its goal. The costumes look crisp, the sets look stolen from Polanski’s Chinatown, and the golden California sun shines in each frame. Even the cast is a perfect mix, with Neeson wearing his fedora well, Krueger flexing her femme fatale muscles, and Jessica Lange giving lines such as, “the key to Hollywood is knowing when the game is up”. However, outside of these visually pleasing things, Marlowe is incredibly dull, and although it has brief moments of fistacuffs, that’s not enough.
It’s that slow and meandering pace that typically works in a noir. It’s undoubtedly Jordan and Monahan’s intention. It’s the things they leave out that hurt it. No narration, a less enthusiastic leading man, and zero risks. The screenplay, based on a character from Raymond Chandler, is not so predictable, but routine. Although on the surface things look good, the screenplay is undercooked, without half the energy of the great L.A. Confidential. It’s a rare film of Jordan’s where everything is relatively tame. The director of The Crying Game, The Brave One, and 2018’s criminally underappreciated Greta, often has a knack for the erotic or vengeful violence. There is no scandal for Marlowe to hang his hat on.
By the time the mystery is found out Marlowe leaves things even more frustrating. It could have the tension of a noir such as Miller’s Crossing or a revival of great works such as Double Indemnity. Instead it leaves us feeling the cold dark reality that making a detective mystery isn’t what it used to be. Marlowe is ready to crack the case. It’s just not an exciting investigation. Best to just leave this case closed.
MARLOWE IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY FEBRUARY 17TH, 2023
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady