Marlowe review: Liam Neeson stars in hollow, dreary crime thriller
It's hardly engaging, even slightly enjoyable, moving from one mysterious subplot to another that has little interest in its own narrative.
Based on John Banville's 2014 licensed novel, The Black-Eyed Blonde, which continues Raymond Chandler's private eye Philip The story of Philip Marlowe, who had everything to make a thrilling and compelling neo-noir film, and it fell short. Directed by Neil Jordan from a screenplay by William Monahan, the updated version of the titular character, played wearily by Liam Neeson, is bland and perhaps most disturbing. Shockingly dull. The film strives to be engaging, even slightly enjoyable, moving from one mysterious subplot to another that has little interest in its own narrative. Despite a stellar cast, Marlowe doesn't step up to the plate, stumbling around and never finding his footing.
Set in Bay City in 1939, the film opens with Marlowe (Neson) visiting heiress Claire Cavendish (Diane Kruger) in search of her missing lover and Nico Peterson (François Arnaud). Nico disappeared two months ago, and some problems in the town lead Marlowe to believe he is dead. But he can't, Claire tells him, because she swears she met Nico when she visited Mexico. Marlowe is working on the case, getting information from anyone known Nico may have had contact with him - from the country club manager (Danny Houston) to the nightclub owner (Alan Cumming), Marlowe spared no effort. However, he eventually finds that things are more complicated than they seem.
Marlowe is deeply enigmatic, but not compelling, and viewers will find it difficult to accept the twists and turns of the story, as there is nothing to care about. It just seems to happen that way, and the lack of intrigue and seduction becomes more apparent as the movie goes on. The final reveal is presented in a monotonous manner, with nothing in either plot or character relationships to justify this nearly two-hour tirade. The characters themselves are one-dimensional, and the actors are forced to deal with clumsy dialogue that often makes their delivery stilted. Marlowe may be a neo-noir film, but it's hard not to see it as a pale imitation of other, better films in the genre.
The film does its best to look and sound like a neo-noir film, but lacks passion and the hollowness of the process permeates everything Scenes and roles swap. The cinematography, which tries to give Marlowe an old-school sensibility, is washed out and leaves a lot to be desired. The costumes, while cute, are a reminder of the movie's parrots. It adds nothing new or substantial. Jordan's film shows a lack of care, as if Marlowe made it afterward.
Even the cast seems to have been checked, mostly wooden acting. However, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Cedric really steals the show, and despite his short time in the film, he's still a bright spot. Cumming chews the scenery, and Houston is solid overall. Kruger tried, but something was missing from her femme fatale, and writing for her character didn't help at all. Neeson, who has been in multiple action movies since his memorable turn in Taken, paints Marlowe as if the private eye is on top of it all, making one wonder if Neeson feels the same way.
Marlowe is best described as going through the motions. This is a film that feels like it shouldn't be here, and every creative decision, including writing and directing, supports that. new black possible Dress up the part, but it's seriously lacking everything that makes Philip Marlowe a delightful, attractive character. It's a shame the film has so little personality to keep it going.
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