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Ginley (Albert Finney) is a nightclub bingo caller eager for a career change. On his thirty-first birthday, he advertises himself as a private eye in the newspaper. He dons a trench coat, and begins engaging others in rapid-fire dialogue as if he were Humphrey Bogart, or some Dashiell Hammett creation. Soon after, Ginley is phoned by a fat man, who gives him a package containing a gun, a photograph, and a large sum of money. Eventually Ginley is investigating a case involving smuggling of weapons as well as drugs. Ginley also finds himself at odds with his unsupportive brother, who offers Ginley payment to break off his investigations. Eventually Ginley learns of his brother-in-law's involvement in the crimes at hand. Ginley faces a series of daunting tasks: solving the crimes, bringing justice to the smugglers (and a murderer), as well as maintaining his safety and sanity in the process. Written by
Superb writing and acting make this as fresh as when first released
I recently saw this for the fourth time, the first time having been in the cinema upon its release. This first viewing saw me classifying it as a pastiche along the lines of Woody Allen's "Play it again, Sam" or "The Black Bird" with George Segal. In fact, the script and acting of "Gumshoe" make it infinitely better than either of these two and put it into that rare category of films, which actually get BETTER with each viewing. For a film approaching its fortieth anniversary, obviously much of the background, (such as the physical locations in Liverpool and Billie Whitelaw's being 'locked' into her loveless marriage with Frank Finlay), are now museum pieces/views into the past. Overall, though, the film still comes across as amazingly fresh and entertains from beginning to end. The lightning speed patter and one-liners are razor sharp and the performances by ALL of the lead characters are stunning. The nearest parallel I can find is "The Third Man" and, while it is definitely not in that category overall, I still think this is a very good film indeed which was vastly underestimated when it first came out,(for example by me!), and which only grows in stature and the enjoyment it affords with each renewed viewing.
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