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The New Daily
The New Daily
Penelope Debelle

Marlowe: The real crime isn’t the dead body in this soft-focus stab at a familiar genre

Liam Neeson as private detective Philip Marlowe. Photo: Madman Entertainment

We have been here before. Hard-boiled private detective Philip Marlowe (Liam Neeson) is hired by a gorgeous dame, Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger), to track down her lover Nico, who faked his death in a gory display of roadkill outside the Corbata Club, a den of iniquity behind closed doors.

Based on a noirish novel by Booker prize winner John Banville, The Black-Eyed Blonde, which was written under the pen name Benjamin Black in the style of Raymond Chandler, the film is directed by Neil Jordan, whose brilliant career includes The Crying Game (1992) and the extraordinary Breakfast on Pluto (2005) with a young Cillian Murphy.

Jordan remains in technical command of the look and feel of this lacklustre rehash, but we are already two degrees of separation from the original Chandler, and Humphrey Bogart’s defining personification of Marlowe is a hard act to follow.

The plot is messy and the double-crosses abound, but the seedy uncertainties of the private investigator game never land anywhere new. Even the lines only ape the genre. “I hope the lady looks good in black” announces a death, while “We’re all lookin’ for something” signifies life in Tinseltown.

The setting is 1930s Hollywood, where double-crosses are a dime a dozen and the dark corners hold secrets. But the real crime is the film itself.

Neeson is in the crosshairs here. Having turbo-charged his career as an action man with the Taken trilogy, he thought he could go on forever.

But this soft-focus stab at Marlowe is bereft of charisma and his clumsy attempts at roughhouse fail in the worst way by being laughable. He is languid and disengaged, not wired for action, and is no match for a dame like Clare, another waste of German-born, French-speaking Kruger’s talents.

Bogart as Marlowe was in his early 40s and Neeson is 70; when he dusts himself off after a struggle, he mumbles, “I’m getting too old for this”, hoping no one agrees.

There is a lot of ostentatious smoking and swigging from hipflasks but nothing subtle, unexpected or compelling.

It looks handsome with well-chosen sets and gowns, vintage cars and a perfectly manicured luxury estate that Clare shares with her mother (Jessica Lange), a movie star playing her own game.

The Coen brothers showed psychedelic reach when they based The Big Lebowski on their reverence for The Big Sleep.

Even the Perry Mason revival on Binge, now in its second season and starring Matthew Rhys, embraces the contemporary need to entertain.

Where is the wit and glamour in this remake? Where are the thrills and the sexual chemistry? If you’re looking for Marlowe, you won’t find him here.

Marlowe is showing in cinemas now.

This review first appeared in InDaily. Read the original here.

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