Marlowe (Mature audiences. 109 mins) Screening in cinemas now
Directed by Neil Jordan
If the names Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe, Raymond Burr as Perry Mason or Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade spin your wheels, then this new version of the Marlowe series will appeal to you.
It will also appeal to those who appreciate great jazz, beautiful settings, beautifully restored vintage cars, wonderful lighting through slatted wooden blinds, in sleazy bars and in Hitchcock-inspired chase scenes in the rain.
Irish director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, 1992) has teamed up with Irish writer John Banville, Irish screenwriter William Monahan and Irish actor Liam Neeson, his 100th film, to give film buffs and older audiences a trip down film noir memory lane. It’s a new version of the classic Raymond Chandler Marlowe stories, based on John Banville’s 1994 novel, The Black-Eyed Blonde.
Banville, writing as Benjamin Black, created a story that is a bit of a riddle, with a lead character who is an enigma. The film follows the book’s rhythm: slow-slow-quick-wham-slow and picks up on the listless, world-weariness of Private Investigator Marlowe (Liam Neeson).
Set in Bay City in 1939, where the main industry is filmmaking, the film starts in typical film noir style with a private eye being hired by a mystery woman. Who are the apparently jealous film star mother Dorothy Quincannon (Jessica Lange) and her glamorous daughter Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger)? What are they really up to? Surely it’s not all about the missing man the daughter Clare Cavendish asks PI Marlowe to find? Chinatown comes to mind and the ever-present undercurrents of Tennessee Williams.
Marlowe is first seen in a Sam Spade-style office, smoking of course, those dimpled glass panels in the door. He’s a bit of a lost soul, a far cry from the action man of many recent Liam Neeson films, until he swings his first punch. He mumbles, “I’m too old for this game”, but he’s a red-blooded man, who has to make an effort to remain professional in the face, the beautiful seductive face, of Cavendish, as she wishes to be known.
Cavendish is an heiress to an oil fortune, a fortune now apparently controlled by the mother. For tantalisingly unclear reasons, Cavendish hires Marlowe to find a former lover, Nico Peterson (François Arnaud), who has disappeared. In flashbacks, we see Peterson as a prop master at Pacific Film Studios and in Mexico as a collector of bric-a-brac, including a weird plaster mermaid. Enter drug lord Lou Hendricks (Alan Cumming) and his huge henchman Cedric (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Hendricks reveals he’s been part of faking Peterson’s death and that he’s after Peterson, his former drug courier, who stole a large amount of cocaine.
From that point on it’s a tale of revenge, film studio reputation, kidnapping, murder and mayhem in which Marlowe and Cedric show themselves to be the only ones who can distinguish right from wrong.
The first person to bring an image or hard copy of this review to Starlight Cinema Taupō qualifies for a free ticket to Marlowe.
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