What we have here is a failure by some in this industry to recognize when certain male actors are past their prime. When Raymond Chandler wrote “The Big Sleep”, which is set in 1936, his iconic character Philip Marlowe’s age is given as thirty-three.
MARLOWE, directed by Neil Jordan with a screenplay adapted by William Monahan based on the novel “The Black-Eyed Blonde” by Benjamin Black, is set in 1939, starring Liam Neeson, who is 70 years of age. To point out that Neeson is miscast is an understatement. And to make matters worse, MARLOWE was not shot in Los Angeles where the story takes place, but in Barcelona, Spain and Dublin, Ireland.
Not having read the 2014 novel by Black, a.k.a. John Banville, I can only comment on Monahan’s script which is dull, convoluted and nowhere near a noir crime thriller. The rest of the cast includes Diane Kruger as Clare Cavendish, the “blonde” heiress who hires Marlowe to find her ex-lover, Nico Peterson (Francois Arnaud). Complicating matters is Clare’s famous movie star mother, Dorothy Cavendish, played by Jessica Lange, and the manager of an elite members-only club, Floyd Hanson (Danny Huston), where Nico may have been murdered.
Unfortunately, none of this is very compelling stuff. Kruger, who is stunning and an accomplished actor, is forty-six. Watching her flirt with Neeson is painful and mildly offensive. Even the always delightful Alan Cumming as the lecherous gangster Lou Hendricks can’t compensate for this dreadful screenplay.
MARLOWE is Neeson’s 100th film. He has a marvelous filmography, though there have been more than a few January/February stinkers --- THE GREY immediately comes to mind. Now that he’s hit this milestone, perhaps he may want to take a cue from his Philip Marlowe character when he states “I’m getting too old for this.”
It's just a suggestion ---
Opinion: Don’t Bother!
Despite its high caliber director, writer and cast, MARLOWE does little to satisfy the viewer. Oscar winner Neil Jordan (THE CRYING GAME) directs, Oscar winner William Monahan (THE DEPARTED) is the screenwriter, and a cast that includes Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger and Jessica Lange cannot bring this film to life.
Set in 1930’s Los Angeles but actually filmed in Spain and Ireland, MARLOWE looks great with its vintage cars, apparel and astonishing sets. Unfortunately, not much of anything happens for a long time in this story, and by the time everything is wrapped up there is a definite feeling that it wasn’t worth the wait.
At 70, Neeson may be a bit old to be bashing heads, but at least he doesn’t waste any time doing so in this film. His portrayal of a down-on-his-luck private detective is rather tame by Neeson standards. And the mother-daughter duo played by Lange and Kruger do not reveal anything so nefarious that we are shocked or mildly appalled. Even the presence of Alan Cumming doesn’t make MARLOWE a viable offering.
Today’s movie audiences are likely to be disappointed, maybe even bored, with the rather mundane plot twists in MARLOWE. Film noir this is not.
Opinion: Don’t Bother!