Review: The Detective

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The Detective is a neo-noir from 1968 starring Frank Sinatra. This film is based on a book by Roderick Thorp by the same name. The book is the first book by Thorp based on his P.I. character Joe Leland. In this film the character Joe Leland is changed from a private investigator to a New York Police Detective. This book isn’t as popular as Thorp’s second Joe Leland book,  Nothing Lasts Forever. Nothing Lasts Forever was also adapted for the big screen. In this film, the Joe Leland character is also changed from a P.I. to a Police Detective, but his name was also changed from Joe Leland to Officer John McClane. Yup, Nothing Lasts Forever was adapted to a little film called Die Hard.

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So…in the literary world Die Hard is a sequel to The Detective…and Frank Sinatra played a younger version of Bruce Willis’ John McClane or Willis played an older version of Sinatra’s Joe Leland? I have not read either of these books, and find the movies have very little to nothing in common, but find this knowledge fascinating.

The Detective was directed by Gordon Douglas, due to Sinatra’s request. The film revolves around Sinatra’s Joe Leland who is a hardboiled detective and is at the top of his game. Leland is a bit displaced as he seems to be a detective stuck in the 1950’s and sometimes comes across as a man who doesn’t fit in to the late 1960’s changing world. When confronted with drugs, open relationships, and homosexuals, you get the feeling he wishes he was back in simpler times, when this stuff was not openly paraded in front of his face.

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The film starts out with a prominent businessman’s son found dead and Leland is brought to the crime scene. The son is brutally murdered by somebody and the police force is under pressure to find the killer fast. The film then flashes back to Leland remembering how he meet his wife, played by Lee Remick. This flashback shows his wife as a damaged soul that is self destructive.  When we return to the present, Leland helps solve the case and sees his suspect go to the electric chair. He also gets a promotion due to this case, but did he send the wrong guy to death?

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As the film continues Leland is approached for help from Norma MacIver played by Jacqueline Bisset. Her husband has committed suicide, but Norma doesn’t think this is the whole picture. Is this second case tied to the first? Is it just part of a bigger conspiracy?

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Look for Robert Duvall and Jack Klugman in small roles as police detectives.

This may not be Sinatra’s best work, but it is an intriguing film that is well worth watching for Sinatra fans. This film is a good bridge for the classic film noir of the late 1950’s to the classic neo noir’s to come in the 1970’s.

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Favorite Tidbit: At the time of this film Sinatra was married to Mia Farrow who was filming the now classic Rosemary’s Baby. Farrow was scheduled to play the role that eventually went to Jacqueline Bisset. When Rosemary’s Baby went over schedule, Sinatra tried to get Farrow pulled from the production. When Farrow was not pulled from the production and did not make it to the filming of The Detective, Sinatra sent her divorce papers to the set of Rosemary’s Baby.

 

Review: A Hard Day or Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-da

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A Hard Day is a neo-noir from South Korea written and directed by Seong-hoon Kim. This was released in 2014, but just recently got a DVD release here in the States.

This film stars Sun-kyun Lee as a dirty cop who is on a downward spiral and luck is not on his side. The film opens with him driving at night in the rain. He gets a phone call from his partners who tells them he will be there with the key soon. This key is to a drawer containing evidence the Internal Affairs Division is trying to get to. He next gets a call from his sister wondering where he is. He is supposed to be attending his Mother’s funeral. Trapped between two places he needs to be, he swerves to miss a dog in the road, but hits a man out of nowhere. The man is dead, so Lee puts the body in his trunk and continues on. Now he hits a D.U.I. stop and knowing he will not pass a Breathalyzer test, pulls out his credentials as a police detective.

This all happens in the first 15 minutes of the film and his luck doesn’t seem to get better as the film progresses.

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Kim’s last film was a comedy and this film has some comic moments, but it is not over the top and keeps the noir feel through out. It is a great study of character, as the film starts with the absolute worst person as our hero and as the film progresses we start to cheer for this man and hope he can get out of this endless conflict. The film has a very claustrophobic feel and will lift your heart rate through out.

If you love Asian Cinema or are looking for something new to watch on DVD, this is a good choice.

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Favorite Tidbit: This film was released to little fan fair in Korea and didn’t do that well it’s first week at the box office. Because of good word of mouth the film caught on and became a big hit, staying number 2 at the box office for 4 weeks. Hollywood blockbusters X-Men: Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow where the only films to bet it. It went on to win numerous awards and nominations.

Article: ‘The Nice Guys’: First Image Reveals Ryan Gosling & Russell Crowe in Shane Black’s Noir Thriller

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People Magazine has released a picture from the new Shane Black movie. I’m a big fan of Black’s work with him writing and directing one of my favorites, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He is also the writer of Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. So when Black describes this new film, The Nice Guys, as a“spiritual sequel” to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang I get pretty excited. Read the full article over at Collider about this film staring  Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe here:

http://collider.com/the-nice-guys-ryan-gosling-russell-crowe-shane-black/

Who else is excited to see this film?

 

Article:7 Neo-Noir Films Worth Watching

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Jeff Rindskopf has made a nice little list of neo-noir films over at CheatSheet.com. This is a great little list and if you are only going to pick 7 films these are all good choices. It is more of a beginner’s list, if you will or a great place to start for new fans of the genre. Check it out and see what you think:

http://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/7-neo-noir-films-worth-watching.html/?a=viewall

 

 

 

Review: The Connection or La French

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You ever wonder what happened in in France while Popeye Doyle in New York was taking care of the events depicted in The French Connection? Well it has been a few decades since that classic film, but the concept is intriguing.

The Connection is a film from France, directed by Cédric Jimenez, made in 2014. The film is based on the true story of the heroin trade in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

The movie revolves around two men on opposite sides of the law. Jean Dujardin plays Pierre Michel, a police magistrate hell bent on taking down the drug trade in Marseilles. Michel bends the laws a bit to get the job done and has to balance family and work throughout the film.

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Our second man this film revolves around is Gaëtan ‘Tany’ Zampa played by Gilles Lellouche. This is the man Michel is trying to bring down. He is the head of the drug cartel and rules with an iron fist. When Michel will bend a rule or break a law to get ahead in this film, our criminal Zampa uses the law and manipulates the police force to keep himself out of prison and in power.
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We also get a plethora of characters from drug dealers, chemists, cops and gang members. The look at France in the 1970’s with the similarities and differences between a Disco era America are fun as well.

The film would make for an interesting double feature with The French Connection. Read my look at the original classic here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/04/11/re-watching-the-classics-the-french-connection-2/

This film has a very different tone and feel then The French Connection, but tackles the same historic events, just from a total different perspective. This film is worth seeking out for fans of true-crime, history, French cinema and noir.

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Review: The Bad Sleep Well

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The Bad Sleep Well is a film noir from acclaimed director  Akira Kurosawa, released in 1960. Kurosawa maybe more known for his epic samurai films, but he did a handful of films noir.

This film starts out with an elaborate wedding, complete with a few arrests, some interesting toasts, and a flock of reports looking for a story as they tell us a little bit about the background of a few of the characters. This opening scene can be a bit overwhelming with the audience thrown into the middle of an intense scene with a ton of characters introduced and a lot of information in only a few minutes. While this scene maybe hard for the audience to keep everything straight, it is worth paying attention for the story to come.

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From this scene we learn a man is marrying a handicapped woman who is the daughter of the Vice-President of a major corporation. The wedding party has members of two major corporations in attendance and they seem to be partners in some illegal activities together. Turns out to be fixing bids for government jobs. A suicide from 5 years ago is brought up by one of the reporters as well as a wedding cake that references this suicide.

As the film continues we learn of an intricate revenge plot on the corporation. This film is interesting for a number of reasons. The plot is intriguing as you want to find out what will happen. We also learn about the Japanese corporate structure and how Japan looks at suicide as a honorable way of saving your bosses and family.

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Kurosawa uses William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a structure for this film, and it has a Shakespearean feel to it. This is a long film that takes your full attention while you watch it, but it is worth it. Whether you are a fan of Kurosawa, a fan of Asian noir, or just a fan of great film, this is worth your time.

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Review: Black Coal, Thin Ice or Bai ri yan huo

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Black Coal, Thin Ice is a 2014, neo noir from China. It is written and directed by  Yi’nan Diao.

This film’s story starts out in 1999 with our hero played by Fan Liao playing a police detective who is recently divorced. He is assigned a case where body parts are found all over the country at coal factories. When some bloody clothes and an I.D. are found, Liao goes to talk to the grieving wife played by Lun Mei Gwei. Liao soon gets a lead where a coal truck driver and his brother could be the murderers. When they confront the brothers a gun fight ensues. This leaves the suspected brothers and two police officers dead. It also leaves our hero wounded.

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The film then flashes forward to 2004 where we find our hero not recovering very well from the events of 1999. He is drinking heavily and is now working security after leaving his job as a police officer. When, by coincidence, he runs into a ex-co-worker on a stake out, he joins him. They are following a woman who has had two lovers found murdered, both bodies are cut up and wearing ice skates. We soon learn the woman they are following is the wife(Gwei) of the victim from the 1999 coal truck case. This starts Liao’s own investigation into Gwei. Is Gwei a black widow like killer, who eventually kills all her lovers? Is she some kind of femme fatale? Does she have a psychopath killer for a stalker?

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This is a good film with some great cinematography. This story is engaging, with some crazy twists and turns, most you will not see coming. I thought all was known a hour in, but we still had over a half hour of more reviles. If you are a fan of Asian Noir and are looking for something new to watch, check this film out.

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Review: The Bridge or Bron/Broen Season 2

I recently reviewed The Bridge Season 1 here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/10/08/review-the-bridge-or-bronbroen-season-1/

As I said in that review, I could not wait to watch the next season. I was leery that this show could keep up the quality of the first season, but my concerns where unnecessary.

This season starts out with a tanker running into the bridge. The tanker has no crew and 5 teenagers drugged and chained in the boat. Saga, played by Sofia Helin, is soon on the case. As the investigation goes on Saga soon goes to Denmark for their support on the case and of course she wants to work with Martin again. Without giving any spoilers of season 1, we find Martin, played by Kim Bodnia, with totally white hair from the stresses still haunting him from the conclusion of season 1. The season continues as an investigation about a group of environmental terrorist takes our duo on a rollercoaster ride of an investigation.

The personal lives of our heroes has changed too. Saga has a new boyfriend, who has moved in with her. She tries to adapt to somebody always being at her home as she turns most of her attention to the case. Martin also digs into Saga’s past and he uncovers some troubling facts about her childhood and family. Martin on the other hand is seeing a psychiatrist to deal with his new problems stemming from season 1. Martin’s wife has also left him and he is trying to win his family back through out this season.

This season also introduces us to a vast new collection of supporting characters, all great in their own right. There are too many to name here, but trust me they are all intertwined into a twisted plot that will leave you wanting more. This season also ends with a very unpredictable outcome for our two detectives that I don’t think anybody could see coming.

I highly recommend this television series for any fans of neo noir and especially those of Nordic noir. If you haven’t seen season 1 yet, go do it now! Then run out and watch season 2 as soon as you’re done.

Since season three is airing in Europe right now, we may have to wait awhile to see it over here in America. I will be waiting patiently for the day I can watch it.

Review: The Drowning Pool

The Drowning Pool is the sequel to Harper, both starring Paul Newman as our lead detective. This film was made in 1975, 9 years after the original. I recently reviewed Harper here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/11/02/re-watching-the-classics-harper/

Where Harper was a commercial success, The Drowning Pool was a box office failure. I’m not sure why this was, as Paul Newman was coming off of two of his biggest hits, The Sting and The Towering Inferno. Some of the reasons I would say this film didn’t do as well as Harper are:

  1. The supporting cast on this film are nowhere near as strong as the first. Harper had Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Shelley Winters and Robert Wagner, while The Drowning Pool’s supporting cast had Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward as the only real standout at the time of release. Melanie Griffith has a pivotal role, but being only her second film after Night Moves, she wasn’t a box office draw yet.
  2. For some reason they moved the location to New Orleans. As the original book and first film take place in Los Angeles, I’m not sure why they moved it to New Orleans. Though I liked some aspects of the film for this reason, I miss the flash and style of Los Angeles. This may have kept some Lew Archer fans away from the film.
  3. 9 years may have just been too long to wait for this film for the movie going audience at that time. Now with cable, DVD, On Demand, Netflix, etc. a film can live a lot longer in the people’s conscious. Harper was probably out of circulation quite awhile after 9 years, with a possible viewing on television every few years.

Just because this film was a flop back in the 1970’s doesn’t mean neo noir fans won’t enjoy it today. Like the first film, this is also based on a Ross Macdonald book.

We also still get Paul Newman playing the same Harper we loved in the first film. The story is good and well executed. Harper is brought out to New Orleans on a case, when he is hired by an old girlfriend. She asks for his help because she is being blackmailed. She has married into a wealthy family and when her mother-in-law is found dead, the case really takes off.

Though this sequel maybe inferior to the first film in a number of ways, it is still a good film worth watching. It is a bit darker than the first film with some grittier story points, making it more interesting in some ways. I watched this and Harper back to back and feel they do make a great double feature on a weekend afternoon. This movie is worth watching for fans of Newman and fans of Harper.

Favorite Tidbit: This is Melanie Griffith’s second film at only 17. Here first film released earlier in 1975 is also a classic neo noir, Night Moves. I reviewed this film earlier here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/05/07/review-night-moves/

Re-Watching the Classics: Harper

Harper is a neo noir from 1966 directed by Jack Smight. When a producer asked writer William Goldman to find him a script with a harder edge, Goldman recommended Ross Macdonald’s Archer books. He was asked to write a screenplay and choice the first book in the series “The Moving Target.”

This movie was Goldman’s first solo screenplay writing credit and started the career of one of the greatest screenwriters in history.

So why is this movie called “Harper” and not “The Moving Target” or “Archer”? Well I have found three possibilities for this change of title in my research. I will call these theories since I do not know which one is right. One is Paul Newman wanted the name change to continue his streak of hits starting with H, including The Hustler and Hud, Hombre would come out a year later. The second theory is the film rights were for the story only and the rights to the Lew Archer name was not included in the deal. The third is the Macdonald estate was not pleased with the idea of a film and would not allow the use of the Archer name. Hard to say what really happened here, but I suspect theory two or three is true and they named it Harper because of theory one.

Either way, we got a throwback film in the vain of a classic film noir revolving around a private eye. This must have been an exciting film for fans of noir that didn’t really have a lot to choice from in the 1960’s. Fans of film noir also got to see some familiar faces from some of their past favorites. They got three of the best actresses from the classic film noir era making appearances in this film, Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, and Shelly Winters.

Paul Newman plays Harper as a wise cracking, tough as nails, street smart private detective, just like we like them. Harper is a little more wise than some of our detectives in the past, for instance all three of our female legends try to use their feminine ways on our hero in various ways, but all fall in the end. In fact he uses his charms on them to get what he wants more than the other way around. Harper may not have a lot of money, but he does have great taste. For instance I think his car tells much about the man. He has a Porsche, but it is a little beat up and in need of a tune-up and he has no money to do the proper repairs.

We do have a femme fatale or two in this film. Our first femme fatale is played by Pamela Tiffin who is a bit of a Lolita to Harper’s friend and the lawyer who got him this job, played by Arthur Hill.

Tiffin’s character also has a thing for pretty boy Allan Taggert, played by Robert Wagner. The thing is Taggert already has a femme fatale that is revealed later in the film.

This film is a twisted kidnapping case where Harper is hired by Bacall’s character to find her missing husband. As Harper tracks different leads, he discovers more strange characters. Will Harper find the kidnap victim before it is too late?

The first time I seen this, I was already a huge fan of Bacall and Newman and found the film good, but not great. On watching this again, I really found I enjoyed it much more. The wise cracking humor is very good and not over the top, especially Winters’ character. I think if you are a fan of hardboiled P.I.’s like Marlowe, Spade and Hammer you should give Archer…I mean Harper a try.

Favorite Tidbit: Frank Sinatra was offered the lead, but turned it down.