Top positive review
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A film by Neville Smith
on 11 March 2017
A wonderful, loving comic-tragic, pastiche of Hammett and Chandler written by Neville Smith. Transposing L.A. to Britain should be embarrassing but the inspired use of Liverpool means it actually works. Finney has never been more attractive and the entire cast, right down to the minor .players with only one line are all, without exception, absolutely brilliant. I know this sounds a bit exaggerated but, in my opinion, it is true. Billlie Whitelaw, Frank Finlay, Caroline Seymour, Fulton McKay, Maureen Lipman, Janice Rule and the club owner, whose name escapes me, are all class acts. Smith has a 'Hitchcock' cameo and a special word for the non-professional who plays the grossly obese, 'Sidney Greenstreet' drug addict, which was inspired casting.
I have never really been a fan of Stephen Frears, believing that he is only ever as good as the script he is given (as in 'The Grifters'), but here he has been gifted with an inspired script and, even with the low budget and his rather basic, television director style, he is unable to muck it up. His one glorious cinematic flourish, perhaps limited only due to cost, is a dizzying crane pull-back zoom shot at the climax, a perfect expression of character, plot and emotion.
Nor am I fan of Andrew Lloyd-Webber, but he delivers an exciting and moving 'forties' soundtrack, perhaps demonstrating that his perfect ear for pastiche is his true talent and forte.
Although, almost as modestly budgeted as a BBC ' Play for Today', a quite exceptional 'minor masterpiece' in its own way.