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Pragmatic Sgt. Natalie Zimmermann is paired with Valnikov, a romantic detective of Russian origin who is going through a midlife crisis. They fall in love while solving the case of the kidnapping of a socialite's pet dog. Written by
This is an offbeat sad, melancholy comedy for which the viewer has to be in the right disposition to enjoy it. Somehow a last stance against total despair. But if the disposition of the viewer IS right, The Black Marble can bring many joyous and thoughtful moments.
The main theme is, as often in a script by Joseph Wambaugh, that being a cop in L. A. is just unbearable in the long run. Soft hearted romantic Sgt. A.M. Valnikov, member of the Russian orthodox church, certainly has chosen the wrong job and shows first signs of vodka induced paranoia. He is teamed up with outwardly tough Sgt. Natalie Zimmerman who says this isn't a goddamn Chekhov play" - but does she mean it? The case the two officers are involved in is the kidnapping of a Schnauzer by a punk who happens to be a dog breeder and trainer. Valnikov flies to the rescue of the distraught female owner without being able to bring the case to a happy conclusion. The only thing he is capable of is offering solace, which he does in a way that makes his colleague, frankly, jealous. But the movie trundles to a generally consoling if not very convincing ending with everybody more or less happy.
The team around director Harold Becker made the best out of a tight budget. For me this is one of the most memorable L. A. movies with really beautiful locations (the great musical score by Jarre helps wonderfully). There are many hilarious scenes, especially all the dog world related ones, the violent final (and totally accidental) clash between lawman and perpetrator and an enthusiastic Mexican doctor who has to clean up" lower body parts of the punk after he got his pecker between canine fangs (it's still there, but you may not want to use it for a few weeks"). Not everything is perfect, sometimes I would really have liked romantic scenes to linger on some more, the last scene falls entirely flat (did the budget run out?), but on the whole The Black Marble is a fine piece of movie making.
The ensemble cast is just great. The most intriguing character for me is police officer Clarence Cromwell, played by John Hancock. What else can he be but an angel? He has no other function but to be there when his colleagues argue or are downbeat, not least his boss who doesn't decide anything without consulting him. It all gives that character a strangely supernatural aura.
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