Marlowe (Blu-ray)

In late 1930s Bay City, a brooding, down on his luck detective is hired to find the ex-lover of a glamorous heiress.

April 17, 2023 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I like Liam Neeson. I really do. But lately he’s been typecast in the “action/thriller” genre and while it was nice in Taken, it’s getting a tad bit old with the same films he does year, after year, after year. Get the point? So when I saw that he was cast to play the iconic Phillip Marlowe, it did actually raise an eyebrow. We know that Neeson isn’t a one trick pony, but it can also be argued that when you find something you’re good at – why change? At any rate, in a throwback to some of the old film noir movies from the 40’s and 50’s we’ve got Marlowe. And on paper, it looks good. A nice cast with Neeson, Jessica Lange and Diane Kruger a noted director with Neil Jordan and a pretty decent script by William Monahan. As is the case when movies like this tank (both critically and commercially) we have to ask ourselves: what went wrong?

We meet Phillip Marlowe (Liam Neeson) as he’s visited by Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger). She’s looking for some help to find Nico Peterson (François Arnaud), someone she was involved with. Peterson was killed outside a club and Clare believes it didn’t happen. She believes it was staged and that the body was actually someone else. Marlowe begins doing what most private detectives do – he pokes around and asks questions which gains the attention of the club manager (Danny Huston), gangster (Alan Cumming) and Clare’s mother (Jessica Lange). If you’re a fan of the genre, likely you’ll know what to expect.

If the movie was judged on the surface alone, a lot of boxes would be checked. Good ones at that. Great cast, writer, director and a story that’s straight out of the era when film noirs ruled the world. But…something was missing. The movie seemed to “know” what it had going for it and underperformed. I don’t know if they were thinking this would be an Oscar contender (though the costume design is pretty amazing) or out for something else. At any rate, all the stars do a serviceable job but it falls flat. We’re better off watching The Maltese Falcon, L.A. Confidential or The Third Man which got the genre right.

Video: How’s it look?

It’s a strange thing watching a film noir in color. I know, I know…that doesn’t totally make sense. It’s not like every movie in the genre had to be made in the 40’s, but that’s how I associate things. And it’s not always correct. Nevertheless, the 2.39:1 AVC HD encode presents a nice, warm-hued image that’s perfectly fine. I caught a few instances in which the contrast wasn’t especially strong (I’ve been spoiled by HDR), but by and large it’s consistent with most any other new movie to disc.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The included DTS HD Master Audio mix is also good, but not especially great. Yes, we get the obligatory gunshots and the like, but by and large it’s a nice, well-balanced soundtrack. Directional effects are few and far between leaving the front stage free to handle the majority of the sound. I wasn’t overly impressed, though not overly disappointed either.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Unless I’m losing my mind, there are no extras to be found.

The Bottom Line

Marlowe is proof that you can have everything in your corner and still not manage to produce a critically and/or commercially successful film. The stars will go onto other projects, it’s not like this is going to end any careers but I felt it could have been much more. The featureless disc isn’t exactly a selling point either. This one is for true fans only.

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