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|Index||14 reviews in total|
Decided to see this at the LA Film Fest for a chance at seeing John
Hawkes in action. I was not familiar with writer/director Dennis Hauck
but will keep an eye out for him in the future--I think he shows a lot
"Too Late" is an ambitious contemporary film noir in five non-sequential acts, each of which is shot in a single take. As far as directorial "tricks" go this is one of my favorites, and Haucks executes it very well, without sacrificing movement or dynamism in the scenes. One unexpected result is that you are aware of the camera more than in most films, especially where the varied lighting, extremely long zooms and tough focal situations really make you feel the mechanical limitations of the camera and 35mm film. Whether this is intentional or not it's a nice nod to what is becoming a dying format.
The plot itself is fairly well represented in the genre: a beautiful woman (self-referenced as a "stripper with a heart of gold") calls for help from a private eye (Hawkes) and is subsequently murdered. This film spares us the investigative aspect of the ensuing drama and instead focuses on the emotional response of the characters. The following acts show us the aftermath, fill out the backstory, and finally provide some closure by revealing a plot twist that, while not entirely unpredictable, reframes the entire film in a very fresh and interesting way. Kudos to Haucks for the excellent ending, which is a trick that many miss but goes a long way towards creating a positive feeling about the film.
The acting is generally excellent, led by Hawkes who fill the grizzled gumshoe role admirably. He's a very self-effacing actor who follows the "less is more" philosophy, and delivers his character convincingly even when it's clear the dialogue is getting a bit carried away. Also notable is Dichen Lachman, who has continued to up her game and is becoming an actor worth following.
If I have any complaint about the film it's that Haucks seems to be emulating Tarantino a bit too closely, especially in the writing department. I think it's a fine idea to do a Pulp Fiction-style take on the noir genre, but I could do with less of the long-winded, dense, occasionally incomprehensible dialogue that's packed with more external references than a Joyce novel. A few too many eye-roll-inducing lines take a bit of the shine of what is an otherwise very enjoyable film, but it is well worth seeing nonetheless.
Numerous reviews of "Too Late" (2015) can be found, and they range from
wildly enthusiastic to highly critical. Both sides have some merit, if
we shave off the extremes. This movie has a few good points and quite a
few bad points. Other reviewers have easily and accurately spotted both
sides of the argument.
The same things that others delightful and awful hit me too. Will they hit you if you see this movie? There is absolutely no way of telling. Do you like or dislike a nonlinear time structure? If you like it, that factor is here. Do you like neo-noir detective stories and one that's told in an interesting way? These are present here. Do you like long and uninterrupted takes? The movie has five of these. Do you dislike the camera whipping back and forth among people conversing? That's here. Do you dislike pretentious and self-conscious dialog with obscure cultural and cinematic references, mouthed by characters who in the real world would never say such things or think of them? That's here. Do you downgrade a movie when some of the acting is below par and really needed more rehearsal and/or some cutting? That's here. Do you like a story with a romantic heart at its core? That's here. Do you like a woman's pretty rear end and her unclothed frontal private part? That's here. Can you manage unresolved or questionable plot points that are lost in the nonlinear time shuffling? That's here. Do you like a bittersweet relationship between capable leads John Hawkes and Dichen Lachman? That's here. Do you like or dislike mournful folk-style music numbers, several of them at one point? That's here. Do you like Robert Forster's presence? He has quite a solid supporting role.
What you like and dislike in a movie will determine how you feel about this one, which is to say it does not, in my opinion, have strong universal appeal. It has some appeals but it has some notable faults. It tries very hard and a good deal of it works in the neo-noir vein. It has lots of the right atmosphere and feeling, a strong point in its favor. It has too much talk and it's not scintillating dialog or thematically rich in insight. Some of the acting needed work, a clear negative; there are too many times when an actor delivers one of these obscure lines or is called upon to curse where it fails to ring true. The long takes created more problems than were their advantages. There was no need for this gimmick. The movie overall doesn't rank high in the pantheon of serious neo-noir, but it does break into that category in ways that will keep it on the radar.
Definitely a modern film noir. John Hawkes is wonderfully gritty but
there are 2 things that make this movie a real pleasure to watch. 1.
The women. So many beautiful women. Crystal Reed is hauntingly
beautiful but all the women are lovely. As a movie buff I have become
aware of how much a director can influence the on screen presence of a
women. Dennis Hauck is a master. All of the women even in very rough
scenes are incredibly enticing. This is about understanding the natural
beauty of the women and then working with makeup, lighting and angles
to make scenes where the camera 'loves' the women. 2. The pure artistry
of the camera work. Watch the angles. The colors . This is the director
and the DP creating art.
Watch and enjoy.
I really like Film Noir and "Too Late" tries to be one but falls short.
I appreciate indie films because they avoid the usual Hollywood
mainstream stuff and I cut them a lot of slack, but this picture
doesn't help you out. It is disjointed and not well written but I think
director Dennis Hauck is on to something.
This effort, however, tends to lose the viewer with time frame juxtaposition which is too clever by half. I had to work at it to sort out the sequence of events and I think I nearly caught up by the end of the picture. Add to this the scenario which often lapses into the surreal and some overwritten dialogue (Dashiel Hammett is safe), and the cake falls.
John Hawkes was good as the detective but has an emaciated look. He is a stretch to be a hard-boiled 'noir' hero, which is a minor objection, but I hope Hauck perseveres and refines his ideas. There is a need to counteract the current trend toward the populist dreck that shows up in the multiplexes nowadays.
I freely admit to having watched this film primarily because of Dichen
Lachmann and Natalie Zea (who I'll see in anything), but it had a great
deal more to offer than I was expecting.
Yes, Hauck steals freely from Quentin Tarantino when it comes to mixed-up timelines, and steals even more from the genre of L.A. Noir, but it has its own charms. It also has some really ballsy experiments, such as shooting each of the five acts in one single take (on 35mm film, which must have been a real bitch to pull off given the changing lighting conditions).
Good performances from a wide range of actors clearly pitching in and having a good time with a small Indie film in between better-paying gigs. Plus, there are some genuinely touching moments, the kind that make you (or at least made me) go back and re-watch a couple of early scenes at the end to see them at the end, after the context of them has been to some extent explained.
I like that the song "Down With Mary" has been short-listed for the Original Song Oscar this year. That shows that this film got more attention than might be expected for a supposed low-budget Indie flick. I look forward to Hauck's next effort.
Too Late is halfway decent noir story anchored by a more than decent lead, but it lets itself get swallowed by its gimmicks. The movie is presented as a series of five twenty-odd minute one-take shots, with mixed results. The opening segment has some neat tricks behind it, including getting star John Hawkes from one end of town to another while maintaining action at a fixed point, and the reveals in the last are effective. But not all of the actors are up to the task, and the reliance on the one-take structure don't do them any favours; many of the scenes in the second section, in particular, have a student-play vibe to them, despite the presence of known names like Robert Forster and Jeff Fahey (Dichen Lachman, however, acquits herself well as a twist on the no-nonsense stripper trope). The nonlinear structure also feels like an afterthought to add some unnecessary extra novelty. The sidebars the movie somehow finds time for don't always work, such as a pair of minor drug dealers with no real purpose other than to pad out the takes and the film's annoying insistence on using film itself as a source of dialogue far too often. If it lost its gimmicks and shed a bit of fat, Too Late has the bones of a good gumshoe flick, albeit one a bit too reliant on stuffing women in refrigerators.
"I didn't know I was doing film noir, I thought they were detective
stories with low lighting!" Marie Windsor
I have a neo-noir you can't refuse: Too Late. For a title vibrating with despair like that of The Big Sleep, In a Lonely Place, The Long Goodbye, and A Touch of Evil, Too Late reeks of a dark, desperate, disorienting world where a soulful and soulless private detective named Mel Sampson (John Hawkes) searches for meaning among L.A.'s damned passengers. Many of those souls are dames, femme fatals if you will, beautiful in a cheap way but deeper emotionally than you'd expect and fraught with danger for anyone who cares about them.
Shot in 35 mm Techniscope or 2-perf with five 20-minute uncut chapters, Too Late is bound to be a classic take on the detective genre memorable for such hard-boiled shamuses as Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. References to directors like Alan Rudolph and Robert Altman, not to mention Quentin Tarantino, certify first-time feature writer and director Dennis Hauck's goal to participate in the pleasantly depressive genre.
Tired detective Sampson searches for a pretty young stripper, Dorothy (Crystal Reed). and eventually her murderer, now and then showing his long hair and strength but just as vulnerable as his biblical name suggests. As for her, well, dare I speculate she was searching for some rainbow's end? She was witty and vulnerable, "lost" in Elysian Park's Radio Hill of Los Angeles while encountering two drug-dealing thugs (Dash Mihok, Rider Strong) and a garrulous park ranger (Brett Jacobsen), all of whom could have as easily played in Pulp Fiction given their penchant for witty talk laced with cinematic references.
Just as memorable and just as noir-naughty are Robert Forster's wealthy strip-club owner, Gordy Lyons; his dangerously desperate wife, Janet (Vail Bloom); and Dorothy's former stripper grandmother, played by Joanna Cassidy, who appeared in the cult classic Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, referenced here no doubt to geeks' glee.
Although I've not mentioned much plot in this review, you get the idea that various fringey L. A. lost-soul types are the interest in this noir homage, at least to my nostalgic, crime-porned, cinema-drenched sensibility.
"One difference between film noir and more straightforward crime pictures is that noir is more open to human flaws and likes to embed them in twisty plot lines." Roger Ebert
Hats off to this film and the team. Really an interesting tale and told
in an unconventional way. Always nice to see movies which break the
mold and challenge the audience. Hawkes is great and the rest of the
cast is really strong. You can feel the flaws in these characters as
they try to sort out the connections between them.
The film has an unique style which does aid in the storytelling and keeps the audience wanting more. Great chemistry between the actors and they really do tie the whole film together with their layered characters.
Enjoyed the texture of the 35mm film. While not the perfect digital imagery which has become commonplace... it's flaws give the gritty story an authenticity which matches it perfectly.
Really enjoyed it... highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Since so few reviews on this, and I had been fortunate to get the
chance to see it shown, thought I should add another: as I understand
that the director, Dennis Hauk having made it in now becoming so rare
'celluloid' filmstock (at 35 mm, too), also 'directed' it should only
be released and shown in circumstances that would do it justice i.e.
only at theatres that can still project film, and not appear in any
digital - homes' use DVD etc format: so for that alone, for any
cinephile, cinema fan, it should be sought out.
And indeed, by which to savour a rapidly becoming bygone experience, that of the rich colours and softer visual tones that original filmstock undoubtedly allows for close up, big screen skin tones, especially beauty, as of 'main' (?) actress, Crystal Reed, but plus including all their imperfections too, viz grizzled Robert Forster: .. and not only that, but delivered through another cinematic speciality, in that it unfolds in five continuous standard reel lengths (c.20 minutes) each (as like Hitchcock's famous attempt in 'Rope'); these all self contained vignettes of a whole, which you must slot together in the right order to get the plot line: but perhaps it is for these technicalities alone that is all this film really has to offer, to stand out worth a watch: in that being not, I would argue as others have (carelessly?) assessed, a film noir (which, come on, just has to be in even older traditional black and white? - whereas this is sumptuous colour) but is actually, of the 'gumshoe' genre. In which respect, lead player John Hawks turns in a superb suitably shabby performance.
But these conceits in effect restrict the format so much so that it soon becomes clearly - stiltedly so in some dialogue exchanges, and despite, admittedly impressive fluid camera movements - so theatrical in parts, since although the camera can move about within its 20 minute (2000 feet) of film allowance, still the actors have to deliver their lines correctly to ensure the take is not ruined of course, which results in the theatrical staid like (no second take) delivery in certain segments: yet, that should be the advantage of film over theatre: that the plot and lines unfolding can so be cut and edited up to more replicate a real life style.
In this respect, then some is just a little too obviously staged: e.g. the 'I'll just sit down and impromptu strum the guitar and sing' scene, where even a background violin player just happens to similarly impromptu accompany, are really only for the effect of 'wow didn't they choreograph that well?', I feel. On the other hand, another of these uninterrupted unspooling vignettes ends in an impressive shock scene (although you can see the set up telegraphed coming, half way through its 'reel') and another centred around a fast, if not already gone, disappearing into history drive in, showing a homage to film itself, in just incidentally involving how the huge horizontal reels used to be operated, is pleasing to see utilised.
Otherwise, to be honest, the conceit soon becomes too contrived, so much so to begin to (irritatingly?) distract you from what should be the engrossing story, not constantly being sidelined by intrusive clever cinematic camera direction, because you are in on the way it has been made. (Big kudos though to those steadicam operators!)
Then, as for the 'essential to the plot' reason dishabille of Vail Bloom portrayed, is (if undoubtedly insouciantly sexy) surely simply quite gratuitous! And for all the one continuous take bally ho, there is at the close, an obvious cut / edits almost as though they had run out of time, manoeuvring to get across to the audience how it all fits together ..
Clever very clever (and film stock soft attractive) but ultimately, unarresting.
I want to thank the writers, producers, actors and anyone involved in
the birth of this incredible film.
After seeing only fifteen minutes of this film, I knew that hope beyond hope, there is some moron who will fund any kind of garbage like this one. No matter how mundane the dialogue, how stupid the plot, so long as there is one woman half naked and stupid men sucking on cigars. That's the thing!
The premise is good. If only the film were. The actors are probably trying to get adjusted to the unbelievability of it all.
This pathetic piece of garbage should never be destroyed. It should be used as an example of the incredible stupidity of this industry.
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