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It might not be the most original or enthralling take on the film noir genre but Marlowe has enough period detail and a high enough femme fatale quotient to keep you entertained.

I'm a sucker for film noir, a fan of Liam Neeson and a firm believer that Neil Jordan will make at least one more top drawer film to rival his enviable 1990's output. So I went into Marlowe hoping this might be that movie. It isn't - the film isn't all that memorable - but at least it is effortlessly watchable.

The plot cherrypicks the best ingredients of forties film noir, as the titular weary detective tries to unravel the mystery of a femme fatale's supposedly dead lover and gets stung by a hornet's nest worth of shady characters operating in and around Hollywood.

Like in the best genre movies the plot is just a McGuffin though to bathe the screen in nostalgic, hard-boiled atmosphere. Marlowe mostly succeeds in that regard, even if the widescreen format and curious lack of close-up tension don't always do the film a favour. In Liam Neeson the picture also has a perfectly suited lead, even if the actor can never escape the long shadow of Humphrey Bogart in the role.

The trouble with Marlowe is however that the film never truly choses a side: does Neil Jordan intend it as a loving homage to the golden age genre or as a post-modern take, akin to Robert Alman's The Long Goodbye? This lack of a clear tone of voice, coupled with dialogue that isn't as acerbically witty as it longs to be, prevents Marlowe from standing out amid other noir films.

If you're in the mood for a moody, at times twisty two-hour mystery with a classy cast and fine production design, you could do a lot worse than Marlowe, mind you.

release: 2022

director: Neil Jordan

starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, Jessica Lange, Ian Hart


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