Watching The Detectives (Peace Arch, 2007) D: Paul Soter, w/ Lucy Liu, Cillian Murphy. Rating: N; DVD package: n/a.
I love the Elvis Costello song that gives the movie its title. The blurb on the box promises a guy (Cillian Murphy) who lives vicariously through old films noir meeting a real-life femme fatale (Lucy Liu). I can relate to that, and I like both stars. Murphy was a great heavy in Red Eye, and Liu has comic femme fatale chops to burn. Remember her Ling Woo in Ally McBeal?
But the movie's a dud. Suckered by my own hopes, I was thinking comic gumshoe flick. Alas, there are no detectives in Watching The Detectives, not even the song. The guy isn't living vicariously; he's just a bit stodgy. And the girl isn't a femme fatale; she's just a flake addicted to playing practical jokes on our hero.
There is a crime. It comes out of nowhere, after the one-hour point, when we've long since given up thinking our heroine's pranks have some nefarious purpose, and it disappears without a trace the moment it's done. No plot development here.
And that's the big problem. Writer-director Paul Soter has some good comic ideas, but he's woefully short on structure, pacing, story and visual sense.
This leaves the cast to create the illusion of fun as best they can. Murphy does it better than Liu, but only because he doesn't have to keep bursting into maniacal laughter.
For good comedy out of wild-woman-meets-stuffy-man premise, check out Jonathan Demme's Something Wild or go to the source: Howard Hawks's Bringing Up Baby.