Cover Noir: Our Review of ‘Marlowe’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 15, 2023
Cover Noir: Our Review of ‘Marlowe’

Just because you can go to the well for a drink, doesn’t mean that you always should….

In theatres….today for some reason, Marlowe resurrects the iconic literary detective of Philip Marlowe (pulled from the book The Black-Eyed Blonde from author John Banville) to give us an attempt at a hard-boiled noir that feels like people are just playing the archetypes of characters from the genre rather than actual real people.

In late 1930’s Los Angeles, down on his luck detective Philip Marlowe (Liam Neeson) is hired to find the ex-lover of a glamorous heiress (Diane Kruger), daughter of a well-known movie star (Jessica Lange). The disappearance unearths a web of lies, and soon Marlowe is involved in a dangerous, deadly investigation where everyone involved has something to hide.

When you look at it, Marlowe is a dry shell of a movie that mimics the style and era of the story that it wants to tell but never has any of the commitment that classic film noir often did.

It really comes to down to the pedigree of talent involved in this project that kind of makes it all disappointing.


With Neil Jordan at the helm we certainly get something that looks darn good and fits the time period well but the script from William Monahan who is adapting from the book is just weak and never really captures the essence of what the film noir genre was.  It’s all too focused on presenting us with characters that have a mastery of strange accents and rapid fire delivery of overly wordy monologues and back and forth between characters.

It’s all very much a clear cut example of an old writing trick that we learned back in the day when we were starting out in this racket.  Quite simply you don’t use 15 words to say something when you can make the same point only using eight.  This film is trying too hard and not doing nearly as much as it sets out to be doing.

It all kind of screams misguided vanity project as we get a film about 30’s Hollywood, shot in Spain and funded by Irish production companies.   It all plays nice but it kind of rings hollow.

To his credit, Liam Neeson is actually trying his hardest here to give some credence to the long legacy that the character of Philip Marlowe has on the big screen but the dialogue ultimately fails.  You can’t “try” to be hard-boiled and of the genre if it all just feels like a weak pastiche of something that has been done better on a number of occasions.

Sadly Neeson doesn’t have a lot to work opposite with either as the likes of Diane Kruger and Danny Huston look bored on set as they go through their dialogue.  Only the likes of Jessica Lange and Alan Cumming have the sense to lean into the material and try and chew a little of the scenery as they all work their way through the narrative.

While the style and obvious affection for the source material are well displayed in Marlowe this all feels very poorly thought out.  It’s more than fine to borrow, lift and pay homage to a genre that you love and inspired you as an artist, but if you don’t make an effort to imbue it with your own artistic signature and style it will invariably fall flat.

  • Release Date: 2/15/2023
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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