Monday, December 22, 2008

Watching The Detectives

I noted that Watching The Detectives was a film-noir based romance comedy starring Cillian Murphy and Lucy Liu. I was familiar with Murphy from Redeye, and Batman Dark Knight. Murphy was also in Cold Mountain, a film I have not seen in it’s entirety. Murphy has not hit the big time yet, but I consider him to be a solid actor. His co-star in Watching The Detectives is Lucy Liu…what more can I say? I decided that this film couldn’t be bad. I was wrong.

Watching The Detectives was written and directed by Paul Soter. As near as I can tell, this was Soter’s Directorial debut. It is also one that I think he hopes he can forget. If it is a sign of things to come, Soter won’t be Directing for long. Watching The Detectives is touted as a comedy romance about a lonely video store owner (Murphy) with a quirky group of regulars who treat his store like a coffee shop. It is a gathering place for hard corps film buffs. An eccentric and attractive girl (Liu) shows up one day and ends up dating/taunting the video store owner in a mating ritual unknown to any culture I have ever studied. The ensuing events are meant to create comedy but really act more as an incessant irritant.

Neil (Cillian Murphy) and Violet (Lucy Liu) are both eccentric in many ways. In terms of character development, I should have loved this movie. Generally we get a set of bland predictable characters with zero personality. Instead, Watching The Detectives pelts us with quirkiness in a non-stop bizarre plot that is difficult to follow and appears to go too many directions. Violet is a practical joker, but her jokes aren’t funny. In fact, her character was so tedious I started to dread any set up where I knew a joke was coming. It was simply bad. In every sense of the word. The plot was also non-existent. I think that they were going for something along the lines of…Violet sets Neil up to take the fall for her and then has a change of heart…but instead, I was completely lost. The dialogue was a bright point…it was interesting…even if it was predictable at times. The originality in this film make it a wasted opportunity. What could have been a decent film with strong characters and fresh dialogue was lost in a mess of failed comedy. Maybe they should have made this one straight drama.

I find it hard to judge Murphy and Liu because they really didn’t have much to work with. Murphy was actually good, considering he was the straight man. Liu made me grind my teeth. I like Lucy Liu. I didn’t want to dislike her character but it was like fingernails on a chalkboard. Her part was a complete mess, which is no fault of her own. However, if this were the first film I had ever seen her in, I would probably have an unfavorable opinion of her. I guess that is why it is important for actors to pick strong scripts. A bad script can really make a good actor look bad. That is exactly what happens to Lucy Liu in this film. The supporting cast were equally eccentric, but actually weren’t that bad. The misfit band of video store lurkers were a decent diversion from the train wreck script.

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