Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, Jessica Lange, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Alan Cumming, Danny Huston, Ian Hart, Colm Meaney, Daniela Melchior, and François Arnaud
Director: Neil Jordan
While pretty to look at, Marlowe is just all around bad, and I don’t understand what went wrong with such a talented cast. The dialogue is so creatively bankrupt that it borders on parody, as does the overuse of slurs and outdated terms. Even the editing is confusing, as this noir-based film has a warm and naturalistic lighting tone, something I don’t think I’ve seen in any detective film save for maybe Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I just don’t get it. Marlowe makes a disappointing centennial entry in Liam Neeson’s catalog. The only good thing about it is the poster.
While I love hard-boiled detective noirs, and it’s nice to see Liam Neeson do something other than another bargain bin action thriller, Marlowe simply doesn’t hit the mark. Admittedly, the production design looks nice, enveloping the viewer with familiar genre vibes, but said vibes also feel incredibly hollow, like cheap cosplay or a 1930s-themed escape room. Unfortunately, the acting, dialogue, and central mystery range from abysmal to barely tolerable, which only adds to the film’s insincerity. Frankly, it just doesn’t seem like anyone was really trying here. At one point, Neeson’s character says, “I’m getting too old for this.” You and me both, buddy.
Despite dressing itself as one and attempting to behave like one, Marlowe doesn’t seem terribly interested in actually being a true noir piece. Apart from its production design, overly and needlessly convoluted dialogue, and a couple of good costumes, everything is simply set up to look like film noir while the direction refuses to commit to the genre. There’s no style, no pizzazz. Thankfully, it does eventually find its footing after a thoroughly choppy first act, and the criminally underused Jessica Lange provides some weightiness with her screen time, but for Liam Neeson’s 100th movie, it couldn’t be less remarkable.
Marlowe will be a film that's easily forgotten by the end of March. A convoluted story, presented to the audience in such a confoundingly bad manner, is only minimally saved by Neil Jordan's direction and the production design. Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, and Jessica Lange do the best they can with the milquetoast screenplay but, thanks in large part to writer William Monahan, what could've been a sumptuous feast of a story ends up being little more than cold broth. It’s a poor excuse for a neo-noir, and most of the usual trappings are present without a framework to make effective use of them.