If you’re a fan of Raymond Chandler’s mysteries and his characters, “Marlowe” will interest you. Just don’t expect too much.
Although Liam Neeson does his usual great job in playing detective Phillip Marlowe, this film noir movie falls short in terms of story and plot twists. You should know this is not a story written by Mr. Chandler. It’s based on a Chandler estate-sanctioned book by John Banville.
While you won’t be swept away by the story, you’ll likely enjoy Mr. Neeson’s take on the detective. He’s a worthy successor to other actors who have walked in Marlowe’s shoes, although it’s impossible to beat Humphrey Bogart, who starred as the detective in “The Big Sleep” (1946).
“Marlowe” is set in 1939. A beautiful blonde — Clare Cavendish, played with sultry, film noir finesse by Diane Kruger — hires Mr. Neeson to find her former lover in this movie set in fictional Bay City, Calif. Her boyfriend was involved in the movie industry.
Marlowe’s search leads to a host of complications, including the appearance of Clare’s mother, played with some (but not too much) spunk by Jessica Lange.
The other characters also add this to the film, including the villain played well by Alan Cumming and a chauffeur with unexpected skills, portrayed by Adewale Akinnuove-Agbaje.
Director Neil Jordan leads the actors well in some good conversations, and there are some plot surprises. But while “Marlowe” has its moments, it falls short of the rhythm and tone of film noir.
By the way, “Marlowe” hasn’t topped or come close to topping the box office, and there’s just one screening of it in Santa Barbara County: 4:40 p.m. daily at Hitchcock Pub and Cinema House in Santa Barbara.