‘Marlowe’ review: Liam Neeson in a noir devoid of energy and humour

Diane Kruger (left) and Liam Neeson in ‘Marlowe.’ Open Road Movies

I thought Raymond Chandler’s famous fictional private cock and sharp-eyed tough guy Philip Marlowe, who would rather nibble a pretty girl’s ear than plug her crooked boyfriend, had grabbed his clapboard and retreated to a Palm Springs apartment . I think I underestimated Hollywood’s addiction to sequels, prequels, and recycling old hits into stale, second-rate repros. Marlowe, directed by the Irish Neil Jordan, brings him out of the mothballs again, wearing the same old hat and rumpled 1930s suit that every Marlowe in the past has worn, from Humphrey Bogart to Dick Powell and Robert Mitchum. The suit is worn out and so is Philip Marlowe.

MARLOWE ★★ (2/4 stars)
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Written by: William Monahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, Jessica Lange
Duration: 109 minutes.

In the decades since Bogey played the dejected investigator The big sleep (1945), no improvements were noted. Liam Neeson is a fine actor, especially on stage, but he’s too frayed around the edges and long in the chops to be mistaken for a debonair gumshoe, though not as hopelessly baggy as the woefully miscast Elliot Gould in The long goodbye (1973). In every incarnation, Marlowe has always been hired by a beautiful, dangerous, and mind-bogglingly mysterious femme fatale who wants him to find a missing person. This time it’s an heiress (Diane Kruger) and the daughter of a hard-boiled movie star (Jessica Lange) who enlists his services to find an ex-lover named Nico, one of the most important linchpins in Hollywood’s underworld. Ironies multiply, petty escapes accelerate, and familiar punches multiply, to no avail, in William Monaghan’s gaping screenplay.

Not many filmmakers know how to make a film noir anymore. Black and white camera work would help, but I see no solution to Liam Neeson’s bland expressions or indifferent line readings. In the clash with Diane Kruger, there is not a shred of the sexy chemistry that made Bogart and Bacall household names in the big sleep, and nothing happens that you haven’t already seen orchestrated in sharper and much better films, such as Edward Dmytryk’s Murder, my dear and that of Roman Polanski chinatown. Random characters appear to revisit early Hollywood locations, including a shady club owner (Danny Huston), a wealthy ambassador (Mitchell Mullen), a collector of rare and precious antiques (Alan Cumming), and the missing man’s tortured sister (Daniela Melchior). ). They all float in and out of disjointed subplots and contribute nothing significant or fascinating to the story.

Liam Neeson is the most boring inhabitant of this very unctuous Hollywood After Dark. As Marlowe, he uncovers the usual blackmail, grand larceny, murder, and other crimes that plague Southern California’s klieg-light beams, without much energy or wit. Distilled from the 2014 novel The black-eyed blonde by John Banville, writing under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, this movie isn’t even the original Raymond Chandler, and a great opportunity has been missed to bathe a film noir in the brittle atmosphere of old Hollywood, where the glamor and decadence captured so beautifully are ignored in colorful films of the same period (Goodbye my dear And LA Confidential, to name just two). Marlowe is set in 1939, but it was filmed in Barcelona and Dublin, of all places, erasing its most valuable character – Los Angeles – and leaving the viewer understimulated by an oversexed pulp fiction hero who shrugs through it in boredom. His detective work is reduced to find the answers to just three essential questions: “Whose ashes fill Nico’s urn?” “Why?” and “Does anyone care?”

Observer Reviews are regular reviews of new and notable movies.

'Marlowe' review: Liam Neeson is the most boring resident of a noir lacking energy and humor

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