Living in Los Angeles during the 1930s, Philip Marlowe (Liam Neeson) is a private eye detective. The film begins with a new client entering Marlowe’s office and introducing herself as Cavendish (Diane Kruger). Cavendish has a job for Marlowe that she feels only he can handle- she wants him to find and track down her former lover, Peterson. She claims he has completely disappeared after leaving without saying goodbye. Marlowe and Cavendish share a drink and smoke as Cavendish reveals more details about Peterson, her family history, and her private life. After a lengthy discussion, Marlowe accepts the job and goes to work.
Soon Marlowe finds himself visiting various places and speaking with multiple people as he searches for more information, determined to find answers. Many suspects surround him, and it’s not long until he discovers there is more to this case than he was first led to believe. Now Marlowe is part of a dangerous game, but who is telling the truth, and who can be trusted when it comes to the disappearance of Peterson?
For those who enjoy a fun, private-eye noir crime story, Marlowe has appeal as does Liam Neeson as a moody and highly determined detective that gets pulled into a case that he can’t walk away from. The cast line-up is impressive as Marlowe visits various places, and many well-known actors and actresses have a cameo or brief appearance. Of these cameos, I enjoyed actress Jessica Lange the most. Costume work is pleasing, and the various locations that Marlowe finds himself in are also a great delight. The music score by David Holmes is very hit-and-miss. Occasionally, I found the score served well and hit hard, while it missed the mark at other times.
My most significant issues with Marlowe related to dialogue and leading performers. The opening act itself was dialogue-heavy, and everything on-screen came across as rushed and complex with emotionless characters. While Liam Neeson’s performance here is generally okay, it is nothing outstanding, and there’s no general introduction to the character of Marlowe. Sadly, the dialogue doesn’t improve as the film progresses, leaving me wishing this film could have been more exciting and engaging right from the word go. Some discussions among leads continued to feel fast-paced throughout the entire movie, with straight-to-the-point dialogue or snappy editing between scenes. I remained uninterested even after pushing through the entire runtime, which was almost two hours. As the credits rolled, I felt unrewarded for my investment and the time given.
Overall, I wanted to enjoy Marlowe, and I was generally excited to see what actor Liam Neeson could bring to the screen as a moody and focused private eye detective. However, I can’t hold back; Marlowe is a significant disappointment. Lacking any form of character development, Marlowe gets into the story instantly with a dialogue-heavy plot, which, for most of the film, I found uninteresting, dull, and sometimes even complex. Liam Neeson is fine here, but sadly, nothing from him has me shouting praise from the rooftops. Actress Jessica Lange was great here, and minor aspects relating to costumes, set designs, and locations are also great. But as a story, there’s no denying it; this story and plot will disengage audiences for most of the runtime.