Since he reinvented himself as a tough guy action hero with 2009's Taken, Liam Neeson has reliably churned out genre films at the start of the year. Many of them have been enjoyable (The Grey, Non-Stop, Cold Pursuit, The Commuter). Marlowe is not as action-heavy as some of Neeson's others, but it once again features Neeson in tough-guy mode as Raymond Chandler's iconic private eye Philip Marlowe. The results may not measure up to Bogart's iconic The Big Sleep, but they are still worth seeing for detective aficionados.
This adaptation, however, is not from one of Chandler's original novels. It adapts John Banville's The Black-Eyed Blonde. Marlowe is hired by the daughter (Diane Kruger) of a faded movie star (Jessica Lange) to locate a missing ex-lover. Part of the fun of Marlowe stories (and any detective story, really) is following the trail along with the hero. So I won't divulge the twists and turns the investigation takes.
Neeson, starring in his 100th film, makes for a strong Marlowe (the script makes him an Irish immigrant to account for the brogue Neeson still has). Like Clint Eastwood, Neeson has a presence and a knack for delivering one-liners that makes him fun to watch in detective movies and action movies. It helps that Neeson is also a genuinely gifted thespian. The plot requires viewers to pay attention, but it's not as challenging to untangle as The Big Sleep. It's also nice to see the Oscar-winner Jessica Lange on the big screen again.
There might not be enough here to win over non-fans of detective fiction, but the ride is fun enough for fans of the character (I definitely count myself in that number).
Marlowe was directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) and viewers would be well-advised to check out his 1986 crime film Mona Lisa, starring Bob Hoskins and Michael Caine, which is one of the best films of that year.