Review of Liam Neeson’s ‘Marlowe’, a reboot of the legendary 1930s detective story

May 2, 2023 Mario Bautista 552 views

Marlowe1LIAM Neeson’s latest film is “Marlowe”, based on the fictional detective created by Raymond Chandler who first appeared in the book, “The Big Sleep”, in 1939. It was first made as an acclaimed film noir in 1946 starring Humprey Bogart as Marlowe.

Through the years, nine other films were made on Marlowe and even a TV series in the 1980s based on Chandler’s short stories, “Philip Marlowe, Private Eye”, starring Powers Boothe for two seasons.

Other actors who have portrayed the hard boiled, wise-cracking private detective on the big screen include Robert Montgromery, James Garner, Elliott Gould and Robert Mitchum.

Liam’s movie is based on a reboot of the Marlowe vehicle, “The Black-Eye Blonde”, published in 2014 by Benjamin Black. This is actually the pen name of Irish writer John Banville who was tasked to add to the Marlowe cannon of books started by Chandler.

It is directed by Irish director, Neil Jourdan, best known for the 1992 film, “The Crying Game”, which won him an Oscar best original screenplay award. We also like his version of “The End of the Affair” with Julianne Moore. His most recent film is the engaging thriller ‘Greta’ starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz.

“Marlowe” is set in Los Angeles in 1939. The famous detective is visited in his office by Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger), asking him to find her missing lover, Nico Peterson (Francois Arnaud), who works in a film company. His initial investigation shows that Nico died in a hit and run case outside the plush Corbata Club.

A friend cop, Joe Green (Ian Hart), tells him to accept that Nico is dead, but Mrs. Cavendish tells him she just saw him drive by while she was in Mexico, which means Nico is just hiding from someone.

He later meets her mother, former actress Dorothy Quincannon (Jessica Lange), who confides to him that her daughter might be deranged, like her own late father. Dorothy also offers to pay him to look for Nico but he declines, saying he’s already under the employ of her daughter.

The plot gets more complicated as Marlowe encounters other characters who may or may not be directly implicated to Nico’s disappearance. He is given a gallery of great supporting actors that include Alan Cumming, Colm Meaney and Danny Huston, all playing shadowy characters in a series of twisty, bewildering events. They eventually get the comeuppance that they deserve.

Everyone tries to do all the best they can in their respective roles, including Jessica Lange who obviously had fun as the hasbeen star and Diane Kruger as the movie’s duplicitous femme fatale.

But, honestly, their hard work is mitigated by the script which is quite muddled and sluggishly paced. It just lacks the tension, suspense and bite that this kind of vehicle badly needs to leave the audience teetering on the edge of their seats while watching.

We’re glad that this is a departure for Liam Neeson from the usual violent avenging hero he often plays since he hit it big as a senior action star in “Taken”. But now, at 70 years old, we think he’s no longer credible in the role of the legendary detective that Marlowe is.

He is shown engaged in some fisticuff scenes that are obviously aided by editing, and he himself blurts out after a scene: “I’m too old for this.” And we cannot help but concur with him.

At his age, he is no longer that believable to be embroiled in a deadly crime investigation like this, desperately trying to solve a web of lies that he’s determined to bring to light. And to think this is promoted as his 100th movie.

In all fairness, the movie has great production values. The period costumes and the set designs are all visually pleasing on screen, but apparently, good intentions alone are not enough to make us get more invested in this slow-moving pseudo-Marlowe detective yarn.