FILM REVIEW — Laconic performance dulls “Marlowe”
Published 12:02 am Friday, February 17, 2023
Open Road Films
Directed by William Monahan
Starring Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, Diane Kruger, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Danny Huston and Alan Cumming
1 ½ Stars
There’s a moment in the new movie, “Marlowe,” when Liam Neeson, playing the famed gumshoe Phillip Marlowe says, “I’m getting too old for this.” It’s supposed to be a funny little aside, but the line left me nodding my head in agreement.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the actor’s late-in-life career resurgence, Liam Neeson is simply getting too old to believably assay the tough guy roles that have become his bread and butter.
“Marlowe” provides a perfect example of this. Neeson seems to be sleepwalking through his take on one of the most famous hardboiled detectives in cinematic history.
Based on the 2014 novel, “The Black-Eyed Blonde,” the story begins when a wealthy heiress (Diane Kruger) hires Marlowe to track down her missing lover, despite the fact this his body is already in the morgue.
The woman argues he’s still alive, and the detective starts to wonder if she’s on to something when her mother (Jessica Lange) and oily mobsters (Alan Cumming, Danny Huston) suddenly appear and threaten the investigation.
That plot is serviceable enough, with some nice twists and feints to keep mystery fans happy. I don’t think it rises to the level of a truly engaging investigation, but neither is it the plot so painfully obvious that the audience will intellectually check out of the story.
“Marlowe” is simply a fairly standard potboiler with an A-list cast.
Unfortunately, many of the actors in this movie relish their chance to chew on the scenery. There are a few fun moments of dramatic excess scattered throughout the film, but they don’t feel connected to what’s happening in the other scenes. Making matters worse, they clash with Neeson’s laconic performance.
I’m guessing the actor was trying to give his character a world-weary vibe, but if the star of the show/central character can’t bring himself to get excited about this murder mystery, how can the filmmakers expect the audience to care?
It’s not a total misfire. I did appreciate the 1930s era look of the film, as well as the yellow-hued cinematography. It might have been more effective lensed in black and white (it is a noir film, after all) but I did appreciate the way the filmmakers took us back to a long past era.
Ultimately “Marlowe” ends up as an OK film, but one that should have been much better given the talent involved. This is a solid cast that manages to get the best out of this somewhat mediocre story. The problem seems to be Neeson, giving us such an uninteresting performance.
We know that the actor has an accomplished history of elevating lesser source material, but that doesn’t happen in “Marlowe.” It left me thinking that his character was correct. Perhaps he is “getting too old for this.”
Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at email@example.com.