Director: Neil Jordan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, Jessica Lange, Francois Arnaud, Patrick Muldoon and Mitchell Mullen
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Runtime: 109 mins. Reviewed in May 2023
Reviewer: Peter W Sheehan
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong violence and injury detail

This American crime-thriller is set in Los Angeles in 1939. It tells the story of a cautiously meditative detective who is hired to find the ex-lover of a glamorous, seductive heiress.

This noir thriller is written by William Monahan and is based on the novel, The Black-Eyed Blonde, written in 2014 by John Banville. The film features the fictional, iconic private detective Philip Marlowe, who is a legendary character created by American-British writer Raymond Chandler. The role of Marlowe, as made famous by Chandler, has been interpreted in previous movies that have starred Humphrey Bogart, James Garner, Elliott Gould and Robert Mitchum.

In this movie, Neeson takes the part of Marlowe, who is hired to find Nico Peterson (Arnaud), the missing lover of glamorous heiress, Clare Cavendish (Kruger), who supposedly died outside his favourite club, which is known for sinister things happening behind its closed doors. Clare is the daughter of a well-known movie star, Dorothy Quincannon (Lange). Marlowe learns Peterson is officially reported as dead, and he is encouraged to accept that fact, but Clare insists she has seen him alive after he was supposed to have been killed. Marlowe sets out to find the truth behind Peterson’s alleged disappearance, and gets heavily involved in the mysteries surrounding Clare’s husband, Richard (Muldoon); Dorothy, her vengeful mother; the US Ambassador to Britain (Mullen); and others.

The disappearance of Peterson links Marlowe to a web of lies and he becomes a central character in a network of deceit where ‘everyone has something to hide’. The film exposes us to gangsters, drug smugglers, corrupt studio executives, illicit love affairs and fierce family feuds; en route, it shows corpses in gruesome detail; and Marlowe practises his sleuthing in a grim environment. This is a film where sub-plots exist everywhere. In the midst of them all, Neeson brings a stylish look to a seedy environment that is otherwise characterised by copious drug and sex trafficking, blackmail, grand larceny and homicide. The film also makes it clear that criminal events take place in a nation coming to grips with the Great Depression.

Marlowe is ageing, psychologically tired, and fighting against a changing world. Neeson’s interpretation of Marlowe is subtle, complex and interesting, though age prevents him showing the physical stamina that the character of Marlowe has delivered in the past. The film sports a huge cast of eccentric characters, needing urgent action to stay alive, and Neeson valiantly tries to cope. The film is exceptionally well photographed, and impressively captures period detail. Performances by the cast amply sustain the plot’s intrigue, the production design is eye-catching and Neeson’s performance engaging.

It is relevant to note that the character of Marlowe in this film is not taken directly from a novel written by Chandler. Marlowe here is a faithful interpretation of Marlowe’s character, as recorded by John Banville, Irish novelist and short story writer. It is definitely Chandler’s world that the movie captures, and Banville, has written knowingly in the style of Chandler. The link to Chandler though obvious, is indirect. This is a derivative film, but it entertains grandly in Chandler-like fashion.

12 Random Films…



Scroll to Top