Set in late 1930s Los Angeles, private detective Philip Marlowe (Liam Neeson) is hired to find the ex-lover of heiress Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger), named Nico Peterson (Francois Arnaud). While on the job, Marlowe is pulled into a web of lies involving Clare’s mother, screen actress Dorothy Quincannon (Jessica Lange), club manager Floyd Hanson (Danny Huston), and seedy businessman Lou Hendricks (Alan Cumming). There are twists and turns; ultimately, Marlowe learns what’s become of Nico Peterson.
So, Philip Marlowe is a relatively well-known private detective character created by Raymond Chandler, with Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum having played the character in the past. Was Neeson up to par with his portrayal? Not in my opinion. Neeson sleepwalks his way through the nearly two-hour film. He was some odd caricature of Marlowe, and I’m not sure he’s necessarily at fault. The story this film was based on was not an original by Raymond Chandler, so the issue may lie there.
I was excited to see Kruger in this film because she has the right look for a noir film. She was not great at all. All I could think about the entire time was her character in Inglourious Basterds, and not in a good way. The way she delivered her lines was strange and completely flat. Kruger wasn’t the only one to have her dialogue in this manner. Nearly all the actors delivered their lines in a very stilted way, and it was to the point of being borderline comedic.
While watchable to a point, this film was a near-parody of a noir-detective film. Every trope was thrown into it: the MacGuffins, the femme fatale, red herrings, and stereotypical, shady individuals. The film even starts with the lead character entering said detective’s office to hire him for the job. Maybe they were trying to introduce the noir genre to a new, modern audience. Though, I can’t see anyone who wasn’t already a fan of detective fiction or films going to the theater and paying the money to see it.
As I mentioned, I don’t know if the problem was the acting or the source material. I sound a little like a literary snob, but why go with a work not authored by the original creator? Perhaps the flatness of the film and characters was the fault of the story and writing. It will forever remain a mystery to me since I have zero intention of reading the book this was based upon.
Marlowe was neither here nor there. While watchable, it could have been more remembered. I’m surprised as I write this that I even remember specific details. I would have loved Marlowe to revive the noir film genre, but there was just something off-putting about the whole thing. For me, Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave was a far better attempt to riff on the genre. I would recommend that film over this one in a millisecond. If the premise of Marlowe sounds interesting to you, and you’ve never watched a noir film, I would wait until it’s on a streaming platform.
Where to Watch
I’m a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I’m an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I’m not at the movies, I’m either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.