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Gumshoe Reviews

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Eric B

Super Reviewer

March 19, 2010
Stephen Frears hit the big time, see, with 1971's "Gumshoe," a likable detective yarn. It was the acclaimed director's first theatrical feature, and he didn't direct his second until eight years later.

Albert Finney stars as Eddie Ginley, who's feeling restless in his crummy job as a Liverpool nightclub emcee. He fantasizes being a fast-talking detective as found in pulp fiction and old movies, and places an advertisement in the local paper. Shortly, he is contacted by someone who gives him a mysterious envelope containing a woman's photo, a wad of money and a gun. The story unfolds from there. The details of the case are hard to follow, but it doesn't really matter. The film's thrust is just the stylized rhythm of its dialogue and its winking homage to the Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe archetype. "Gumshoe" can't be labeled a mere spoof, however -- it aims for smiles rather than laughs, and plenty of scenes have a dramatic tone.

The prime targets of Eddie's wit are his brother William (a wealthy jerk whose shipping business may be crooked) and William's wife Ellen (Billie Whitelaw). Ellen is Eddie's former lover whom the more stable William stole away, but she still holds onto her feelings for Eddie. The crackling chemistry between Finney and Whitelaw is easily the film's greatest virtue. Two other enigmatic women dip in and out of Eddie's investigation, but don't quite make a mark like they should. A rival detective (Fulton Mackay) has some sharp moments, however.

Music fans should note that the young Andrew Lloyd Webber composed the film's score -- a rare undertaking for him.
July 24, 2012
A perfect blend of humor, mystery, and drama. The films plays up some stereotypes even as it undermines them. In that regard this is a rare film indeed.
December 4, 2013
It's legacy is that it probably served as massive inspiration for Dennis Potter's masterpiece, The Singing Detective. On its own, the black comedic dialogue soon wears thin and the story is too dull to take seriously. Worth a look for some true early 70s atmospherics and if you drift in and out you may enjoy the odd bit of dialogue.
February 8, 2011
A good concept that doesn't totally come off, but it's got some witty banter and some nice visuals to spare. I like that Finney's madness is kept a bit ambiguous, but I think that the film would have been better served if it had embraced the noir stylings more. Still, it's interesting to look at the early works of folks like Frears and DP Chris Menges. Was a bit disappointed by Frank Finlay's performance though - way too mundane a role for someone of his calibre.
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