MOVIE | Clunky dialogue and plot keep the audience guessing in a Liam Neeson detective film
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➤ Rated R
➤ S3 / V6 / L6 *
Casting Liam Neeson as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe must have seemed like a surefire hit, but other than Neeson’s world-weary cynicism, the neo-noir Marlowe completely misses the mark. The filmmakers go awry from the start, choosing to adapt Benjamin Black’s 2014 novel The Black-Eyed Blonde—an authorized sequel to Chandler’s The Long Goodbye—rather than one of Chandler’s original stories.
The film is set in 1939, and naturally it begins with the femme fatale walking into Marlowe’s office. Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger) is a married woman who needs help tracking down a former lover.
The script tries to replicate the cryptic hardboiled style in which a laconic detective keeps his cards close and his mysterious client keeps her secrets closer, but the dialogue borders on nonsensical. Marlowe and Cavendish talk past one another, throwing out words free from any context. It’s almost as if they were given different scripts. This problem pervades the entire movie.
And the plot isn’t any better than the dialogue. Perhaps the filmmakers were attempting to create an intricate story, but they merely ended up with some tangled episodes. Marlowe proceeds from one scene to the next discovering living people who should be dead, which leads to dead people who should be living. Throw in some Mexican gangsters, dope smuggling, prostitution, politics, and a corrupt film studio for good measure.
It’s not obvious how any of this hangs together or why the cynical Marlowe pursues this case further than he’s hired to. If the hero doesn’t seem to care what’s going on, why should the audience?
*Ratings from kids-in-mind.com, with quantity of sexual (S), violent (V), and foul-language (L) content on a 0-10 scale, with 10 high
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