‘Shadows of Crime’ brings Liam Neeson in an almost decent police plot – 01/04/2023

It’s easy to forget how much of a great actor Liam Neeson is when his livelihood comes down to endless variations of the “thick old man” he ushered in with “Ruthless Pursuit.” The star is still good at fighting, but that is not the focus of “Shadows of a Crime”.

The action here goes to the 1930s, when detective Philip Marlowe lives in a Los Angeles fueled by crime, betrayal, suspicious figures and, of course, the sweet illusion of Hollywood. It is against this backdrop that he is hired by a socialite (Diane Kruger) to find her lover. Soon, the plot extends its tentacles through the dirty underworld of the capital of dreams.

Philip Marlowe is, of course, the creation of the writer Raymond Chandler, who introduced him in 1939 in the novel “The Eternal Sleep”. The detective immersed in the America of crime stories soon became a success, migrating to radio, TV and cinema, earning his most perfect translation in Humphrey Bogart in 1946 in the classic “On the Edge of the Abyss”.

Liam Neeson, here in his hundredth (!) film, proves to be a worthy performer in translating Marlowe’s balance of high moral standards and indifference to violence. He regrets that “Sombras de Um Crime” does not do justice to the character, even with the weight of talent linked to the project. Starting with director Neil Jordan.

The Irish filmmaker showed his enormous talent right from the start, with the fantasy “The Company of Wolves” and the thriller “Mona Lisa”. “Breakfast” won him an Oscar for best screenplay, and “Interview with the Vampire” put him in the blockbuster game – where he, to be honest, never felt comfortable.

The partnership with Liam Neeson began in the historical drama “Michael Collins”, and the actor returned to directing with a supporting role in the drama “Breakfast on Pluto”. Adapting the character of Raymond Chandler seemed like an obvious recipe not only for Jordan to get back in the spotlight, but also for breaking the box that Neeson himself had put himself in.

Cinema noir and the literature pulp, which fuels “Shadows of a Crime”, bring a recipe for tough detectives, amoral villains and femme fatales who need to be careful not to go astray. It’s a fine line between reverence for the format and daring to imbue it with contemporary personality and sensitivity.

The result, however, was halfway there. The hard-working cast – in addition to Neeson and Kruger, the film features Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming and Danny Huston – and the super neat production do not hide the fragility of the text, sometimes without any rhythm and lost among so many characters and twists.

Still, “Shadows of Crime” is decent enough for a no-strings-attached session. If it doesn’t come close to the excellence of “Los Angeles – Forbidden City”, at least it doesn’t find the mediocrity of “Gangster Hunt”. But don’t expect Liam Neeson headlining a series of films like Philip Marlowe: on this trip into Hollywood’s criminal underworld, his gun only has ammunition for a single shot.

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