The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
The Walking Dead
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All Critics (8)
| Top Critics (1)
| Fresh (2)
| Rotten (6)
Pretty silly and familiar mystery.
...a handful of unexpected surprises keep Under Suspicion moving along quite serviceably.
The plot twists itself out of coherence.
Fair mystery with interesting locations familiar to fans of The Prisoner.
A solid conclusion and the always-interesting Liam Neeson can't save a familiar mystery.
A sexy Britain detective whodunit? The very implausibility of the idea curdles my helping of shepherds pie! And yet here it is. Liam Neeson and Laura San Giacomo provide the heat, just like a Bogie/Bacall mystery, as the clues mount up against our shady private detective. This one is better than the reviews paint it to be!
Look, I'm not saying that this film is kind of lazy, but seriously, just look at its title and try to tell me that it had to have been carefully thought out, you know, if you actually know or care about this film enough to even bother looking at its title. Well, guys, it's a 1950s-set detective noir, so maybe should call it, I don't know, "Under Suspicion", because, you know, it's just not quite clichéd enough. No, as much as I bash this film, it's alright, it's just that they couldn't have even put too much thought into the casting of the main detective, because I know when I think of a cool noir star, one of the first names off the top of my head would be Liam Neeson. Well, I suppose this film's protagonist's casting could be even lazier, partially because Neeson wasn't exactly all that known about by 1991, and largely because casting Neeson as the bad guy would be an even lazier decision, as the dude is so chilling that it would be obvious from the get-go that he is the killer. In retrospect, it doesn't help that there's a chance Neeson actually killed his castmates in this film, because he's pretty much the only one who walked away from this effort into a career that people actually keep up with. Well, to be fair, he did go on to make apparently better role decisions, and plus, this film did earn him an award for best actor at the Festival du Film Policier de Cognac... whatever that is, thus reflecting how he is pretty much the only thing all that memorable in this film. No, again, the film is alright, I'm just making it seem like I'm agreeing with the harsh reviews because, while I did enjoy this effort just fine, the critics aren't entirely wrong in their complaints.
In plenty of regards, this film shamelessly takes from formulaic old-fashioned detective noirs, except maybe a narration, which isn't good, because about the only exposition you get out of classic noirs of this nature is typically within the narration, and without that, this film really leaves you to think about just how incredibly undercooked it is, with little development to help in sustaining your investment and reinforcing the bare minimum of plot motivations, which isn't to say that there's any amount of development that can fully make sense out of certain things. I wouldn't exactly say that this film is as sloppy as they say, yet there are hints of silliness here and there throughout the final product, particularly when it comes to histrionics, which cheese up the dramatic intrigue of this thriller with blows to subtlety that do about as much as conventionalism in firmly establishing predictability, which is saying quite a bit. I don't know if it's trying to pay homage to 1950s noirs or whatever, but when I said that this film shamelessly takes from formulaic old-fashioned detective noirs, I meant that whatever this film's intentions may be, they don't work if they're trying to water down the genericism, which is still glaring to no end, driving the film into trope after trope, many of which are embarrassingly, well, trite. The film's formulaic structure isn't exactly grating, but there's no way around the intense familiarity that looms over the final product all but throughout its course, tainting it with predictability, and I guess that would be fine if this film was more consistent in keeping entertainment value alive. The film is hardly all that challenging in its blandness, or else it would have lost the decency it ultimately sustains, but if it's not enough that the film gets kind of carried away with its attempts at intrigue, director Simon Moore's atmosphere is not so committed to the efforts to make a juicy thriller, drying out time and again in order to power blandness that sometimes goes so far as to collapse into all-out dullness. There are enough thrilling spells to this thriller to keep you sticking with it, but limpness drags down too many areas in storytelling for you to stand a chance of ignoring the underdevelopment, silliness and genericism that were never to be so obscured that the final product would be at an especially safe distance from mediocrity. The film almost falls flat, yet it doesn't, being shaken by heavy blows, but ultimately standing its ground with the support from anything to highlights in storytelling to highlights in style.
There's not really a whole lot to Vernon Layton's cinematography, so when the film's look gets average, it gets to be kind of bland in its lack of flavor, yet that just makes the relative high marks in Layton's efforts as director of photography all the more worthy of appreciation, for although the sharpest areas of Layton's photographic eye hardly cut all that deep, there's a certain noirish strike to lighting that makes the final product's particularly good-looking moments range from eye-catching to near-gorgeous in a rather ruggedly gritty way. Visually, the artistic punch-up added to this film is hit-or-miss, but commendable when it hits, and just that can be said about Christopher Gunning's musical artistry, which is formulaic and, in some ways, overstylized as a very early '90s thriller score, as well as supplementary to the overbearingness of certain manipulative moments in which the musical aspects feel overblown, yet has its share of highlights that, while hardly shimmering, liven things up a bit, particularly the genuinely effective moments in which the usage of the musical aspects feels well-realized. The highlights in the musical aspects of this thriller are attractive, and the highlights in visual style are even more so, coloring up this thriller with some lively artistic touches, but, really, not all that many, for although there are, in fact, commendable areas within this film's style, the artistic highlights aren't anything too special, and the artistic value on the whole is kind of underwhelming, thus there's little to distract you from the shortcomings in substance that you cannot afford to notice too much if you want to get invested in this drama. The film's story is derivative, undercooked and messy, offering little meat and plenty of potential for mediocrity, and these conceptual problems in storytelling, alone, give you a glimpse into a fall-flat film, but not exactly a heavily pronounced one, because with all of its weak areas, there are highlights to this story on paper that, if played up, could save the final product as decent. Needless to say, Simon Moore detects these highlights more often than not, making plenty of errors as directorial storytelling, both when it comes to the obscuring of the shortcomings that reside on paper, and when it comes to avoiding mistakes as a director by his own right, but having moments in which he punches up atmosphere with a certain intrigue that rarely, if ever fades out too much throughout the final product, largely because, if nothing else keeps the final product alive, it's the acting. Granted, there's not a whole lot for our performers to work with in this blandly composed dramatic thriller, but there are charmers found throughout this cast, headed by a particularly impressive, leading performance, courtesy of Liam Neeson, whose charisma and effectiveness as a flawed, but sharp investigator looking into the death of his wife gives you some insight into the human depths of this generally messy thriller, which Neeson ends up carrying. Sure, Neeson doesn't carry the final product too far, but as a lead, he helps in keeping things alive, so if nothing else is worth complimenting about this film, it is Neeson's good performance, though that's not to say that there aren't other commendable areas to this drama, which is messy and has only so many strengths, but enough pros to outweigh the cons in terms of effectiveness, even though you'll walk away hardly forgetting the shortcomings.
To close this case, underdeveloped and often silly writing fail to establish distractions from the predictability, established through genericism that blands things up almost as much as the atmospheric dull spells, thus making for a final product that comes close to collapsing into mediocrity, yet doesn't, thanks to the appealing highlights in cinematography and score work, and bringing life to intriguing areas in the story concept through relatively effective areas in direction and decent acting, - particularly the acting by leading man Liam Neeson - that make Simon Moore's "Under Suspicion" an often reasonably entertaining and ultimately decent noir, regardless of its messiness.
2.5/5 - Fair
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