Give ‘Em Hell, Malone

Like a drifter, he was born to walk alone.

Living the hardscrabble life, Thomas Jane prowls the dirty, dangerous streets, gun in hand, scowl permanently etched on his face.

He used to be a private eye with a family, now he’s something different – a hard man willing to do rough jobs if the pay is right.

But, somewhere deep under the layers of bitterness and hurt still (barely) beats a conscience which won’t be completely silenced.

Directed with customary snap by Highlander main man Russell Mulcahy, this might be mid-level noir.

But mid-level noir is still better than no noir.

Twilight (1998)

No twinkly vampires.

Just weather-beaten private eyes, a deliciously-twisty tale of murder and blackmail, and old pros coming together to create a minor masterpiece.

The director is Robert Benton of Kramer vs. Kramer fame, the composer is 14-time Oscar nominee Elmer Bernstein, and the cast is a who’s-who of stars, headed up by the incomparable Paul Newman.

He’s in deep this time around, beginning to suspect his pals may know more about an unsolved murder than they’re willing to reveal.

Still he plows ahead, even after being shot by a young Reese Witherspoon(!), the last man of good conscience.


Too Late

He can’t win.

Trudging through a fractured time frame, a cigarette often pressed between his lips, the low-rent private eye brought to life by the always-great John Hawkes is a man one step behind.

An L.A. lifer who has seen it all, he wants to do the right thing, but finds few others seem to share his ideals.

Bobbing along in a world of dirty deeds populated by lowlifes and degenerates, Hawkes is the last good man standing.

That, and a dollar, might buy him a scratch ticket.

Writer/director Dennis Hauck delivers a superb entry from my favorite film genre.

The Long Goodbye

Nothing says goodbye like a bullet.

Raymond Chandler’s detective moves into the paranoid ’70s, blowing up our preconceptions about the genre along the way.

This time out, Philip Marlowe, played by a rumpled Elliott Gould, is depicted as a “born loser,” betrayed by his own friends, knocked around by life, unable to even hold on to his cat.

But he still has a gun, and a moral code, even if it’s fraying badly around the edges.

Stalking the truth in a case that hits close to home, our downtrodden PI won’t like what he’ll find.

But he’ll deal with it.

The Nice Guys

Well, they’re not that nice.

But they’ll do.

An oddball, loving tribute to ’70s detectives, the kind who used to anchor TV shows like The Rockford Files, Shane Black’s dark comedy follows two tough-nosed, belligerent, useful idiots as they untangle a complicated case of murder ‘n mayhem.

Everyone has a secret or ten, and it leads back to big-time power brokers hiding in the shadows, as you should always suspect.

Rich in peppery dialogue, this is a film which gets even better the second time around, as you look past the main plot and marinate in the grace notes.