Cert 15 Stars 2
This 1950’s detective noir thriller is an achingly sincere and unintentionally ridiculous vanity project for writer, director and star, Ed Norton.
In a typically intense but irritating performance, Norton plays a New York private detective called Lionel, who while investigating the murder of his gumshoe boss, Bruce Willis, is drawn into a conspiracy of corruption.
Lionel is often referred to as ‘freak show’ by his colleagues due to being a sufferer of Tourette’s syndrome, and as no-one is more convinced of Norton’s talent than the actor himself, he delivers an impossible to enjoy performance which reeks of desperation for another Oscar nomination.
Norton occasionally reminded me of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, but he wants to have his cake and eat it too, for while the film treats his character with sympathy, it also wants us to be amused by his sweary staccato outbursts.
His performance left me embarrassed, agitated and eventually bored, and I hope the Hollywood Academy voters feel the same.
Beyond Tourette’s there’s not much character there, and as for Norton’s star power and suitability for this sort of hard-boiled material, well Norton is no Humphrey Bogart, Jack Nicholson or Harrison Ford.
Plus Norton is an uncomfortable 14 years older than Brit actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw who plays love interest, Laura Rose, an activist lawyer.
Known on US TV for his satirical portrayal of President Trump, Alec Baldwin is the best in show as a builder-turned-politician, who’s a racist, hypocritical and an utterly phoney man of the people.
An otherwise commendable attempt at authenticity is undermined by a general lack of people smoking, and having Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, wailing over the soundtrack doesn’t fit the period mood at all.
Inadvertently erring towards thin pastiche than warm homage, Norton is so over the top this could almost be a cartoon, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit was more stylish and exciting, had a more involving mystery, and was a lot more fun.