Marlowe - Movie Review

Neo Noir
75th Anniversary on the Big Screen
75th Anniversary on the Big Screen(Allies Interactive Services Pvt. Ltd. | story blocks)
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 12:33 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2023 at 12:38 PM EST
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Marlowe is a peculiar picture. On one hand it is a faithful homage to film noir as it revisits one of the most famous detectives of that era, Phillip Marlowe. Set in Los Angeles in 1939 the production design, costumes and cinematography brilliantly evoke the era. Marlowe is a character created by Raymond Chandler, but the film is based on a book by famed Irish Novelist John Banville. The novel is called Black Eyed Blonde, and it is an authorized work of new fiction, long after Chandler’s death. The screenplay adaptation is by director Neil Jordan (Oscar Winner, The Crying Game) and William Manahan (Oscar Winner, The Departed). This dynamite duo is responsible for some very cheeky, articulate dialogue. The stylized movie dialogue again takes us back to the great “hard boiled” crime films of Hollywood’s Golden Era.  If only they had closed captioning at the movie theater, as I fear I missed some crackling wit slyly delivered.

On the other hand, I have no idea why this movie was made, other than an assignment in neo noir aesthetic. I found myself not rooting for any character, as they all are unlikeable and often just seem to be servicing the plot and aren’t well defined. Liam Neeson, all 6′4 of him (cue the “he’s a big one jokes) plays the famed detective this time. It isn’t that Liam isn’t good, he seems miscast and would have fared better if he was a little more humorous. He understands the detective for hire, who has a job to do trope, but he just remains too aloof and one dimensional.

The film lacks vigor and inevitable motion, even though there is a lot of bad stuff going on. There is something brisk about original noir films that keep them moving along, even when they have long scenes of exposition. Everything here feels protracted and there are some very slow patches. I wasn’t emotionally involved in the story; it kept me at a distance.  Even the clever reveal at the end, which tells us “What it really is all about” didn’t get much a reaction out of me, although it was clearly meant as an “a ha” moment.

Despite this, everyone is trying so hard, including the great cast which includes an intriguing Diane Kruger, the formidable Jessica Lange, and the always beguiling Alan Cumming. Marlow is also loaded with so many great character actors in small parts it is like playing “who’s that?” movie bingo.