Monday, September 9, 2008
Okay, here we are with our 2nd entry in my Noir Month series, which also happens to be the 2nd movie in the noir box set I recently purchased. I'm sure that's just a coicidence.
Notable Talent (i.e. people I'm familiar with): The director is John Sturges, who is most famous for The Great Escape, but also did some other notable tough guy films. Ricardo Montalban is the star, though I've never seen him in anything except the Spy Kids pictures. He has a likable screen presence and it's cool seeing a minority in the lead role of an older film, so he gets my approval.
Detective Story: Yes indeed, though not of the private persuasion. This is a police procedural, about a homicide detective investigating the murder of a pregnant prostitute.
Twisty, Turny Plot: Well, they hide the killer's face at first, but then unmistakenly suggest his identity early in the film. It's more so about how the police get on his trail, and as I said before this is very much a procedural, not too dense of a msytery. The one amusing twist is that the detective works with some forensic specialist-types from Harvard, of whom he is initially skeptical but soon proves his mettle. These days, with all the millions of detective shows and never ending CSI spinoffs, we take all this crap for granted, so it's kind of charming to see a movie that thinks this forensic science stuff is all new and strange.
Moral Ambiguity: Well, the good guys are clearly good and the bad guy clearly bad, and we aren't meant to sympathize with any criminals or anything. In fact, overall I'd say this one wasn't notably noir-y, more just a straight forward cop movie. One interesting touch in this department is that for a while, the main character aggressively investigates a man that he believes may be guilty, but we the audience know is not. He's a bit tactless or at least a little inconsiderate during the investigation, and ends up causing the innocent man and his wife a lot of undue stress, and even maybe harasses them a little. The detective is otherwise a likable character, so it's a neat detail, perhaps implying that his asshole-ish behavior is just part of the job.
Sweet-ass Shadowy Black and White Cinematography: This is a well made, well shot movie, but again, it's not overtly noir in it's style. The streets aren't shadowy enough, the clubs aren't smokey enough, too much happens in the daytime or in well lit spaces.
Overall Quality: This is an all-around solid cop movie, nothing great, but consistantly entertaining, with a likable lead performance and one or two memorable supporting turns. It's well paced and the action is well staged. I have no real complaints except that it's not really film noir, or at least not much of one.
Okay, ranking what I've watched so far this month:
1. Act of Violence
2. Mystery Street
Mystery Street was a reasonably entertaining cop film, but I found Act of Violence to be a far more compelling and complex experience.
Okay, not much of a list yet, but we'll get there. I hope.