Liam Neeson needs to investigate a new agent.
Liam Neeson is the next actor to play detective Phillip Marlowe, after Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, and Elliott Gould, among others. “Marlowe” is also his next movie to bomb so miserably after “Men in Black International,” “Honest Thief,” “The Marksman,” and “Memory,” among others. It’s a detective piece that’s also his 100th film (or so I’m told), but its story is so dull and routine, that you don’t even care about its plot twists.
Since the story is set in Los Angeles of 1939, the film, directed by Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game,” “Interview With the Vampire”), looks great with the cars, costumes, and movie sets. And you have a number of supporting actors in the mix like Diane Kruger, Jessica Lange, Danny Huston, Adele Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Colm Meaney, and Alan Cumming. They deserve to be given better material than they’re given here.
And the screenplay was written by William Monahan, whose best work was “The Departed.” This material made me want to depart from “Marlowe,” but as a film critic, it’s my duty to sit through this whole thing. I may undergo a change of perspective, I may not, but one thing’s for sure, I did not.
Marlowe is called into action by a mysterious woman by the name of Claire Cavendish or Cavendish as she likes to be referred to. She’s played by Kruger, and she asks him to investigate the disappearance of a props guy she was having an affair with. His name is Nico Peterson (Francois Arnaud), and it was said in the reports that his head was supposed to be squished by a car. But she saw him somewhere alive, and Marlowe must fit the pieces together.
Marlowe finds himself dealing with one bad guy or prick after another. And one of the lines he says is: “I’m getting too old for this.” I can’t tell if him or his character talking. He’s able to play it smart when one of the villains spikes his drink, and he pours it on a plant, so he can fight back. Now, that’s when I’m seeing some real common sense. If only the rest of Monahan’s script was that sharp.
Cavendish is also at her wit’s end with her mother Dorothy Cavendish (Lange), a former movie star, in what’s supposed to be mother-daughter issues. This two actresses have both done better than succumb to these typical and pointless conflicts. I don’t know what they’re about, and I don’t care what they’re about.
There’s also the private club owner Floyd Hanson (Huston), the crime boss Lew Hendricks (Cumming), and his assistant Cedric (Akinnuoye-Agbaje) in the mix. I’m pretty sure the heiress Cavendish is implicated, because they usually are, but could Hanson or Hendricks be, too? Probably. But the story made the better decision to have Cedric join forces with Marlowe. After all, he should be given more than what his boss gives him.
Now, I know Neeson has been able to survive the late 2010s, as demonstrated with “Silence,” “Widows,” and “Cold Pursuit,” all of which weren’t given the kind of movie-going love they deserve. Even in his early 70s, he can still deliver the good with age and challenges, but he also deserves the right direction and script. “Marlowe” is a waste of his talents.
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