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HAMMETT (Wim Wenders, 1982) ***
Bunuel19766 May 2006
A surprising - and quite successful - belated attempt at film noir which gave Fredric Forrest the role of his life (Jason Robards Jr. had previously portrayed famed mystery writer Dashiell Hammett in JULIA [1977], and won an Oscar for it!) but also features terrific support from, among others, Peter Boyle, Marilu Henner, Richard Bradford and Elisha Cook Jnr. (playing an "anarchist with syndicalist tendencies"), not to mention cameos from the likes of Sylvia Sydney, Samuel Fuller and Royal Dano! Impeccable lighting and production design, together with John Barry's evocative score, set the seal on its perfect recreation of the genre's typical ambiance.

While the mystery plot wasn't immediately gripping and seemed unnecessarily convoluted (by way of an added fancy in which Hammett imagines characters from the film 'playing' the ones he invents for his stories!), it worked its way smoothly towards a satisfying conclusion. The fictionalized script took care to reference scenes from some of Hammett's most famous work - notably Roy Kinnear's Sydney Greenstreet impersonation and Forrest's own hand shaking (like Bogart's did) after standing up to the heavies, both from THE MALTESE FALCON (1941). However, the film's pornography subplot is actually derived from Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep"!

Even if HAMMETT doesn't seem to have suffered for it, the production was beset by behind-the-scenes problems which is a fascinating story in itself: executive producer Francis Ford Coppola had originally offered the film to Nicolas Roeg who, for some reason, didn't do it and eventually made BAD TIMING (1980; which, incidentally, I watched only a few days later!). Wenders, a lifelong devotee of American genre cinema, stepped behind the camera but his work apparently didn't meet the approval of his backers! "Halliwell's Film Guide" explained the situation thus: "The film was actually in pre-production from 1975, though shooting did not begin until 1980. This version was abandoned in rough cut and two-thirds of it was shot again in 1981 with a different crew. Sylvia Miles and Brian Keith were in the first version and not the second." For this reason alone, it's truly a shame that Paramount's DVD was a bare-bones affair (if very reasonably priced!) as a documentary on the making of the film or, better still, individual Audio Commentaries by Wenders and Coppola would have been greatly appreciated...
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Underrated, undervalued, almost designed to be a cult film from the onset
bigpurplebear11 April 2001
In the background/historical notes to his novel, "Hammett," author Joe Gores says of one character, ". . . and if you don't know who he's based on, you need to read more Hammett." The movie, more or less based upon the novel, takes Gore's dicta to heart with several key characters. The result can be a whole lot of fun if you know your Hammett; if you're a little weak in that category, the result is merely a lot of fun.

Set in 1927 San Francisco, the film catches Dashiell Hammett in transition: Trying to firmly put his Pinkerton days behind him while establishing himself as a writer, dealing with the twin scourges of his World War I - induced tuberculosis and the alcoholism that will plague him almost to the end of his days, he finds himself drawn back into his old life one last time by the irresistible call of friendship and to honor a debt. By the time he's done, he finds himself having paid a far higher price, learning that he had only thought himself to be totally disillusioned beforehand.

"Hammett" the movie is as much an homage as "Hammett" the novel. It is a rare thing for neither a movie nor a novel to suffer by comparison to each other -- especially when the two are so divergent -- but that is exactly what happens here. The screenplay is strong, the production values uniformly excellent (check out the 1920s Market Street Railway streetcar which passes by in the background briefly in one scene, for example; only one in a thousand viewers might recognize it, and only one in possibly two thousand might appreciate the verisimilitude it provides), the direction and pacing authoritative.

Frederic Forrest is virtually perfect as Hammett; by turns ravaged and buoyant, hardboiled and outraged, at every turn ultimately unstoppable. By the film's close, he makes it very clear that, for Hammett, there will be no turning back; those moodily tapping typewriter keys which formed such an eerie backdrop for much of the action will also provide his salvation, and that this is a good thing.

And anyone who disputes that, as Joe Gores would say, needs to read more Hammett.
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Interesting, but read the book!
jbacks3-125 December 2003
HAMMETT was one of the first books I read for pleasure back in college and I recall anxiously awaiting how it was going to be Zeotroped on screen... visually the movie reminded me of a large single set production (like 1937's DEAD END)... it's almost as if somebody like Bill Gates took a film class and decided to adapt the book as his final. Large plot chunks are missing from the book (notably a car chase and a baseball bat murder) but this movie was so unique (in those pre-Joel and Ethan Cohen days) that I remember it looking like a strange painting even after 20+ years. Forrest is a terrific under-rated actor and was a perfect choice for Dash. You won't be wasting your time checking HAMMETT out but the book has it beat. 8/10.
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Benefits from the 1920's Backdrop
Uriah4310 August 2017
When a young Chinese woman by the name of "Cristal Ling" (Lydia Lei) goes missing in San Francisco a retired detective turned novelist named "Samuel Dashiell Hammett" (Frederic Forrest) agrees to attempt to find her. However, he soon begins to realize that there is much more to this missing person's case than his private detective friend "Jimmy Ryan" (Peter Boyle) initially told him. And the fact that even the police advise him to steer clear is even more cause for caution and concern. Now rather than reveal any more I will just say that this was an interesting mystery film which benefited greatly from the 1920's backdrop. Likewise, the twists and turns along the way which continued on to the very finish certainly helped to a great degree as well. Admittedly, it could have used a bit more action and suspense but even so I enjoyed this film overall and I have rated it accordingly. Slightly above average.
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"The Cops, The Crooks & The Big Rich"
seymourblack-112 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Samuel Dashiell Hammett played a huge part in popularising the hardboiled detective stories which were responsible for changing the existing style of crime fiction in the 1920s and also strongly influenced the works of certain other prominent crime writers who followed him (e.g. Raymond Chandler, James M Cain etc.). Hammett's characters and stories were largely drawn from his own experiences as a detective working for the Pinkerton Agency and his hardboiled style was almost certainly a product of his Pinkerton's training which emphasised the need for agents to remain totally objective at all times to ensure that their judgement was not impaired by emotional involvement with the victims of crimes etc. As Pinkerton agents were also encouraged to do whatever was necessary to bring criminals to justice without being too concerned about normal standards of decency or morality, it's quite likely that this inspired the cynicism and moral ambiguity that also featured in his work.

The movie "Hammett" (1982) is essentially an homage to the kind of fiction that provided a great deal of material for the films noir that influenced German director Wim Wenders so strongly during his childhood and focuses on the author's career where he'd already left the Pinkerton Agency and was selling his stories to crime magazines such as "Black Mask". It provides a fictionalised account of how he might have reluctantly got drawn into an investigation being carried out by an old friend and by so doing, gained the inspiration he needed to write one of his most successful novels.

In San Francisco in 1928, crime-writer Dashiell Hammett (Frederic Forrest), (known to his friends as Sam), has just completed his latest story when he's visited by Jimmy Ryan (Peter Boyle) who was his mentor during his time at Pinkerton's. Jimmy taught Sam everything he knows about detective work and is now working on a missing person's case involving a Chinese girl who's been a victim of the slave trade and could be in imminent danger. Sam doesn't want to get involved but feels obliged to because, in the past, Jimmy saved his life by taking a bullet that was intended for him.

The investigation takes the two men into the dangerous Chinatown underworld where Sam quickly finds that he hasn't forgotten some of the old skills that he learned at Pinkerton's. Things don't go as planned though when Sam loses his latest manuscript and Jimmy has to work alone to track down the young Crystal Ling (Lydia Lei). Trying to solve the mystery of Crystal's disappearance leads to brushes with corrupt cops and beatings before Sam discovers some pornography, prostitution and blackmail rackets that involve a number of wealthy people in influential positions in the city.

Hammett is depicted as a laconic, heavy drinker who suffers alarming bouts of coughing because he's a TB sufferer. Before getting involved in the Chinatown investigation, he'd used Jimmy as a hero in his stories and his attractive downstairs neighbour Kit (Marilu Henner) as a key character called Sue Alabama. During his time in Chinatown however, he becomes involved with a whole series of people who are immediately recognisable as ones that later feature in his best known works.

Despite the movie's well-documented production problems, the end-result looks well-directed, skilfully photographed and successfully evokes the atmosphere of the classic noirs. Its main deficiencies are a shortage of the witty repartee that's normally a feature of these types of stories and also a lack of realism that's caused by virtually everything being filmed in the studios. Frederic Forrest makes a convincing Hammett and the supporting cast is also very strong.
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She's a disaster.
hitchcockthelegend17 August 2015
Hammett is a fictional story about the great writer Dashiell Hammett (played by Frederic Forrest). The story finds the writer retired from the Pinkerton Detectice Agency and nursing bad lungs and a taste for the liquor. When old colleague Jimmy Ryan (Peter Boyle) comes a calling, Hammett finds himself down in Frisco's Chinatown district in it up to his neck in muck and grime.

The back story to the production of Hammett is long and disappointing, all of which makes for fascinating reading and available at the click of a mouse. The film we have to view now may not be the one originally envisaged by director Wim Wenders, but on repeat viewings it shows itself to be a very loving homage to the halcyon days of film noir, a film of great technical craft and guile. Though not without issues either...

Production value is high, the set design that brings late 1920s Frisco to life is a joy, as is Joseph Biroc's luscious colour photography. John Barry provides a musical score that smoothly floats around the Gin Joints and Alleyways, while costuming is on the money. Cast are led superbly by the under valued Forrest, with Marilu Henner (Biroc lights her so well), Boyle and Lydia Lei striking the requisite film noir chords, while a host of cameos and short order roles will have the keen of eye putting names to the faces from similar films of yesteryear.

The story is complex, which is purposely complimented by narration, canted angles, slatted shadows, billowing smoke, and of course a number of venues that all anti-heroic detectives must traverse to unravel the mystery bubbling away under the seamy surface. The problems are evident of course, it's a very uneven picture, the re-writes etc leaving a disappointing mark. It's also like watching a performance at the theatre, akin to watching a play, the predominantly stage bound shoot - and the almost forced delivery of lines - makes it synthetic.

But ultimately there's a lot of noir love here, enough to ensure that repeat viewings for those of that persuasion should find themselves rewarded for their time. 7/10
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The Good & Bad Of 'Hammet'
ccthemovieman-12 August 2007
GOOD - I enjoyed the 1920s look, the San Francisco-Chinatown locale and the nice set designs. It was interesting to see Marilu Henner from television's "Taxi" fame. I also was great fun to see one of my favorite actors from the classic film noir era, Elisha Cook Jr. Another classic star, Sylvia Sidney, also makes an appearance.

BAD - A somewhat convoluted story and several main male characters who are uninvolving - particularly lead character " Dashiell Hammett," played by Frederic Forest - make one lose interest in this story by the halfway point. If the lead doesn't connect with the audience, then the film is in trouble, which may explain why this movie is almost obscure. Peter Boyle, playing "Jimmy Ryan," also looked like he was reading his lines from a cue card. From what I've read, this film had a lot of production problems and much of the director Wim Wenders' work had to be re-shot by Francis Ford Copolla. Obviously, this project was a semi-disaster from the start. One thing they could have used: narration. It goes perfectly with this kind of story, and they didn't use it.

Overall, being a film noir buff I was very disappointed in this effort. I really wanted to like this movie. It should have been far better than it wound up, but at least I know now why the movie never made a name for itself.
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"Shouldn't we do something legal?"
chaos-rampant20 May 2009
I didn't really expect my first forray into Wenders to be a fictionalized pulpy detective story homage to the patriarch of pulpy detective stories, writer Dashiell Hammett, produced by Coppola's Zoetrope Studios, but there you have it. Strangely, I'm not even sure this is a Wenders film in anything but name, as Coppola himself allegedly had to reshoot one and a half years after Wenders wrapped shooting significant portions of a film his backers found very 'dissatisfying'. Par the course for a film that had to undergo so much revamping to please money men, Hammett is a mess, albeit an interesting mess.

If the premise sounds good enough, pulpy writer Dashiell Hammett being drawn one last time into his detective past as a favour to a former Pinkerton colleague whom he helps investigate the disappearance of an underage Chinese prostitute, the script never quite fulfills its potential. Not because it's sprawling and convoluted (the best noirs usually are), but because it's just that for all the wrong reasons, and on top of that half-baked and unconvincing. At times it plays almost like a Dick Tracy caricature of noir plots.

Most interesting thing about it however are the meta- aspects of the story, probably what drew Wenders into the fold (apart from his fascination with American genre cinema). Writer Hammett playing detective Hammett, the lines between reality and fiction blurring dangerously as he does. But the film never runs with it, as though afraid it might alienate a mainstream audience that likely had little vested interest in such a film to begin with.

The opening sequence shows what might have been: having just finished his latest novel, Hammett lies down playing out the ending in his head; after a violent coughing fit, he staggers back into his living room only to find waiting for him the hero of his book. Is Hammett hallucinating in the grip of alcohol and tuberculosis or does he base his fictional characters on people he knows?

The ending tries to bring all that back full circle but it's too little too late. The movie has dawdled a little too much in squeaky clean Zoetrope sets trying to pass for 1920's San Francisco, has tripped over the needlessly convoluted mess it creates for its characters. It's still a fun watch, the cast is populated by familiar faces (three Twin Peaks actors, Sam Fuller, Elisha Cook Jr.), and Frederic Forrest gives a good show. Interesting curio, not much else, Hammett fans will probably dig it significantly more than me.
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A visual feast for mystery genre fans
Chazzzzz11 February 2000
This film is a fine example of the classic mystery film, such as The Maltese Falcon, updated in color. Rich atmosphere surrounds all the characters. The cast, including Frederic Forrest, Peter Boyle, Marilu Henner!, Elisha Cook, Lydia Lei, do well. It's not perfect, but certain worth a looksee on a dark, foggy night. A solid 9 from me.
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Spirit & Letter the True Detective
ken200014 March 2002
'Hammett' is an excellent case of Zoetrope Studios, utilizing Coppola's unusual electronic-soundstage method of production (which would be further refined in his seldom-seen 'One From the Heart,' also with Frederick Forrest). In certain respects the film is like Paul Schrader's 'Mishima,' also based on a literary figure, with a seamless interweaving with the author's fictional characters along with thw writer's real life. Watch 'Hammett' and try to sort out the various strains that pop up in different films based on his work, notably the 'Maltese Falcon.' Elijah Cooke is one of the stars of the 1982 Wenders film. Don't forget the music, the soundstage decor with the recreation of late 1920's San Francisco, and the general mood that makes 'Hammett' a worthy entry to anyone list of must-see noir films.
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fun noir with all the '40s trimmings
blanche-220 June 2017
Despite a big chaotic mess behind the scenes, 1982's Hammett starring Frederic Forrest is an entertaining noir-ish experience, bringing us back to the '40s adaptations of Hammett and Raymond Chandler novels.

Wim Wenders direction did not meet the approval of the backers and delays pushed the film from its preproduction beginnings in 1975 to 1980. The first version starred Brian Keith and Ronee Blakely, but most of that was thrown out. In 1981, two-thirds of the film was re-shot. There are in essence two versions of this film, with only one released.

In this story, Hammett himself is involved as a detective, called by his actual first name, Sam. His mentor, Jimmy Ryan (Peter Boyle) shows up at Hammett's San Francisco office looking for a Chinese girl, Crystal Ling, and he needs help.

Crystal turns out to be a former prostitute and porn star who has engaged in fantasy scenarios with some of the richest and most influential men in San Francisco - and there are photos. So lots of people want Crystal and her photos before she can trade them in for a million dollars.

Hammett comes up against the police, people trying to hurt him, and friends who aren't as he works to get the photos.

The joy of this film is in its homage to movies like "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep" and the casting of Elisha Cook, Jr., who appeared in "The Maltese Falcon" and countless noirs, in his last film. Roy Kinnear is a Sydney Greenstreet-type character, and Sylvia Sidney, an actress who had a 70-year career as a leading woman and character actress, plays a woman who runs a charity home for girls. Vets like Royal Dano and director Sam Fuller also appear. For old movie lovers, this is a treasure.

This is a very stylized movie, with Forrest as a Bogart-type Hammett, Marilu Henner as his beautiful and helpful neighbor, and Peter Boyle as a hardnosed detective. The acting is all done in the manner of '40s films; along with the wonderful noir atmosphere, it all works well.

Modern noirs for some reason don't always make it, for me, anyway, but this one pulls it off, due to the talent behind and in front of the camera.
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Lots of Fun
gavin69423 September 2015
The novel writer Dashiell Hammett is involved in the investigation of the mysterious disappearance of a beautiful Chinese cabaret actress in San Francisco.

Who would have thought that Wim Wenders had in him one of the all-time great American detective films? Not me, that's for sure. And yet, here it is with some great characters and plenty of those intriguing twists and turns we love. And Peter Boyle! The setting of San Francisco as opposed to New York or Los Angeles (or Chicago) was a good choice, and of course allows for the Chinatown subplot. Surprisingly, this does not seem to be a common plot element in detective films (besides, of course, "Chinatown").
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Hammett-Just plain old great entertainment
oldsarge-127 April 2007
Hammett was produced by the sadly, now defunct Zoetrope Studios of Francis Ford Coppola. Hammett is a great movie that will most likely achieve cult status over time, especially with the folks who love the old 30's and 40's type crime and mystery movies. If you are a fan of this genre, you will most certainly notice the scenes which are very similar to scenes from the Maltese Falcon, but that is understandable as Dashiell Hammett penned the novel and Hammett is a who-dunnit which places the writer right in the thick of things as an old friend and mentor returns to San Francisco to seek help from Hammett played by Fredrick Forrest (The Rose). The old friend and P.I., Jimmy Ryan, played by Peter Boyle (Joe) seeks Hammett's help in locating one, Crystal Ling played by Lydia Lei aka Lydia Lei Kayahara. Crystal ran away from a brothel owned by Fong Wei Tau played by Michael Chow. I won't go any further with this as I don't wish to add any spoilers to this review, but I will say that Marilu Henner (Taxi) plays Hammett's neighbor and drinking buddy, Kit Conger/Sue Alabama. While she doesn't have the biggest part in the world, she does a good job with the part she does have and the sweater beret and black shiny coat that she was wearing at the end of the movie, well, made me long for the good old days. Other old time favorites show up here as well. Roy Kinnear plays English Eddie Hagedorn and Elisha Cook Jr.

plays the taxi driver Eli. Hammett's nemesis in this movie is Lt. O'Mara played by R.G.

Armstrong, while the ever present bad-boy punk is played to perfection by David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors)(Last Man Standing). Sylvia Sidney plays Donaldina Cameron and is only given a small part as is Elmer Kline who plays Doc Fallon. Jack Nance plays Gary Salt. The movie goes back and forth between what our main character has written and what is actually happening, but the two are pretty much the same. Dark and brooding as this film is, it is still worth your time and it is available, at least for now, so grab a your copy while you can as it is worth it to have it in your collection. Too bad that it seems that Lydia Lei only had an 11 year run in movies and TV. I thought she played her character wonderfully. According to the information on IMDb she started in 1977 and her last entry was 1988.
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Pure film noir
inioi23 October 2015
Wim Wenders did an excellent job with this movie.

The only possible difference with the old classics is that the film is filmed in colour. The sets recreates amazingly the atmosphere of the real film noir. The story and the acting works on the same good level, and special mention to th excellent music score of John Barry.

I would like to highlight the fact of the movie also shows the personal life of Hammett: his humble apartment, his neighborhood, his alcohol problems, his girlfriend....which makes the story believable.

Not just for film noir lovers, but for people who loves cinema in general.
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It has character-a-plenty and that includes the score....
launchd-219 December 2000
Watched Coppola/Wim Wender's "Hammett" again this past w/e- the film grows on me- has a flavour I like- the detective genre mixed with post-turn of the 20th century San Francisco- and the fact that SO MUCH is done on soundstages gives it a surreal quality. The film's production history has always been interesting (Frederick Forrest and Marilu Henner got married and divorced during it's long, tumultuous halt-run production). But, if you have never seen this or heard the John Barry score- you should. At least the score. It's to be placed in the Barry category called "unusual"- piano melodic and a lot of strained strings prevail- giving it a gin-soaked, withdrawn feel that still tugs through a foggy SF even when it's clear. A dubious above-ground underworld sucks all the characters and audience into a not-so-licentious but rather everyday (same then as today) corrupt city power structure. The film and score play off of each other, intertwining, massaging and playing out a tale of woe, misbegotten friendship and a lusty disgust for those in-power at that unique place by the bay. If ANYthing can be said of this film- it's that it has character-a-plenty and that includes the score
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So Disappointing, Wenders on a Bad Day
robert-temple-15 June 2009
It is painful to have to admit this, but even Wim Wenders can make a bad movie. I saw this years ago and was terribly disappointed. I just had another look, fooling myself into thinking it must have matured in the can and it would be really good, and that I just remembered it wrong. But alas, it was even worse than I remembered. Frederic Forrest is superb and was perfectly chosen to play the main character, Dash Hammett the detective writer ('The Maltese falcon', 'The Glass Key' and the 'Thin Man' films). Forrest worked again with Wenders 15 years later in another film and he played Hammett a second time in 'Citizen Cohn' (1992). He is a good solid actor and always delivers. The other highlight of this film in terms of acting is the amazing Lydia Lei, who plays a Chinese siren even though she is Japanese. She has that something extra. She will make the hair rise on the back of your neck, and maybe more besides. But the film is a super-flop. Wenders obviously loves old noir movies and thought 'wouldn't it be nice if'. But just as 'man cannot live by bread alone', so a film director 'cannot live by homage alone'. The concept, the story, the script, are all terrible. And the interior lighting is even worse, far too harsh, and the attempts at expressionism with streaked shadows and so forth is a total failure. Above all, everything is too contrived and the characters apart from Hammett himself are pastiche people, which was doubtless intentional in a jocular homage sort of way, but Germans should never try humour, as it is not their forte, and Wenders is best when he is being earnest and serious, or portraying personal angst or hanging out with musicians. Even Wenders's flair for music wobbles here, with some dubious song choices. This was just an 'off day' for Wenders which lasts for 97 minutes, and if you make it that far you pass the endurance test.
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Hammett (1982)
MartinTeller6 January 2012
A fictionalized account of Dashiell Hammett getting involved in a scenario like something from one of his own stories. Wim Wenders constructs a neo-noir that's light on the "neo". No post-modern winks at the audience, no updating the sex and violence to the modern standards. Except for the color photography, one utterance of "shit" and slightly more sexual suggestion than you could get away with the time, it feels like something straight out of the era. The snappy dialogue, the canted angles, the rough and tumble characters, the twisty plot (more Chandler than Hammett, really, but whatever). The blatantly artificial sets are perhaps a little too self-conscious but it doesn't ever get too kitschy. Terrific score and very appropriate casting including Freddie Forrest, Peter Boyle, Marilu Henner and Elisha Cook. The biggest problem is that the film doesn't have a great storyline to hang its fedora on. It's pretty much just an exercise in pure duplication. But it's a fun time for lovers of the genre.
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A Noir Lovers Wet Dream
mgtbltp10 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Sort of an alcoholic stupor/dream of a PI flick, enforced by the storybook poetic/magic realism quality of the Zoetrope Studio sets and a melancholy soundtrack. The story revolves around Dashiell "Sam" Hammett post his Pinkerton years, late 1920s, during his Pulp Fiction/Black Mask, penny a word, hack writer days, and the tale of one last case or is it just another hard boiled tale?

Wim Wenders and Zoetrope Studios managed to recreate a late 1920s San Francisco crammed with amazing details and populated by what seems like hundreds of extras. Our story begins with a slow zoom into a cheap walk up apartment. Sam Hammett (Fredrick Forest) a chain smoker, a lunger, and a heavy boozer prematurely gray, is pecking out the finale to a pulp story on what looks like an Underhill. While Sam is typing we see the tale as it unfolds. A voice-over narrates in true Hard Boiled Noir fashion. It's a fog bound waterfront of docks and warehouses. A operative named Sue Alabama, has just double crossed her partner Jimmy Ryan. Ryan dopes it out, gets the drop on Sue and recovers the pearl necklace. Sue asks Ryan to give her an hour for old times sake, he agrees, she takes off, but in his narration Ryan tells us he only gave her fifteen minutes and she was picked up at the station. His last line of narration is "Back in '26 Sue Alabama and I nearly got married. I suppose it's just as well we didn't.

Sam types The End rolls out his last page and adds it to the stack of the manuscript. He smiles grabs up the pages and stumbles over to his bed where he passes out.

Alcoholic stupor/lucid dream? We fade to black then cut to Sam hacking and coughing his lungs up into the sink in his bathroom, until he collapses on the tile floor

Waking up in the middle of the night Sam lights up a tar bar and sees a figure sitting in his easy chair. It turns out to be Jimmy Ryan (Boyle) his partner from his Pinkerton days, and he reading his Continental Op manuscript. Ryan says "Sam I don't know whether to be flattered or embarrassed, .. How come the guy doesn't have a name?.... this guy does all the stuff I used to do"

Ryan tells Sam that he's in San Francisco working an MP (a Missing Person Case) and that he needs Sam's help. Sam protests that he's done with all that. But Ryan tells the story about a young kid green on the job who would have got a bullet in the eye if Ryan hadn't stepped in the line of fire taking it in the shoulder. The kid tells Ryan that he owes him "saying any time any place " Well Ryan tell's Sam "the place is here, the time is now!"

The rest of the tale involves the extortion plot and the various individuals connected, the film is a Noir lover's visual wet dream with a wonderful back-lots and set designed by Dean Tavoularis

Frederic Forrest is excellent as Hammett, perfect and totally believable in the role of a hard drinking, chain smoking, lunger, ex detective. Marilu Henner is good as Kit. Crystal Ling is great as the story's femme fatale. David Patrick Kelly is good as the gunsel.

The rest of the cast perform well the films only faults are one, Peter Boyle, I feel that he is only adequate as Jimmy Ryan, the original casting choice was supposed to be Brian Kieth, who would have brought a ton of cinematic memory with him to the role, Boyle brings the wrong kind of baggage, he's played in too many comedies, he's almost but not quite spoofing the part, too bad.

The films second fault, is with the numerous production problems. An 8/10 after repeated viewings
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The private enquirry agent and the depraved chinese in Frisco
bruno-chereul9 September 2003
This movie is a tribute to Dashiell Hammet who was the first U.S. author who " got out the novel of investigation far from away the familial saloons" before Chandler. He was an agent of the Pinkerton Agency, then, bored by this work, he wrote a lot of novels of investigation. Wim Wenders offers a tribute to his memory as beautiful the Hammet's novels were. He was alcoholic for it was necessary to drinck and write like, after him, the gentlemen Chandler. More over Hammet was brave during the Mac Carty times. He refused to invoque the fifth amendement: then he was a prisoner during one year.The film is showing to us the way of the Hammet's heroes used to live and die in San Francisco in order to defend the poor people of this town. The French Author in poetry, Aragon, introduce D. Hammet in Europe in 1936.
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kiss me deadly
mundsen16 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There is nothing more irritating than a high-concept art film. Except, perhaps, a botched one.

You need to have a very good reason to make a movie featuring Dashiell Hammett as a 'real detective'. It is a twee and obvious idea. (It was called Murder She Wrote and it ran for years on the telly, where it worked perfectly.) But a serious 'A' feature, with a star director? Presumably the point would be to show the 'real' people on whom Dash Hammett based his fictional characters.

But instead, here we see Hammett surrounded by people doing largely uninspired impersonations of characters from old Hammett movies. A decrepit Elijah Cook Jr. drives a cab to the same apartment building he inhabited in 'The Maltese Falcon', where another twitchy gunsel waits with a fake Sydney Greenstreet. The fake sets look like fake sets from the Warner's backlot.

Because it's all a copy of a copy, everything seems pallid: Roy Kinnear simply reminds us how depraved and scary Greenstreet originally was. The only way for this film to be viable was to find someone even scarier than Greenstreet: to show us how Hammett 'tidied reality up' in his fiction. Instead, we get a pointless pastiche.

What might conceivably have saved this is a performance of blistering charisma in the title role. I suspect Frederic Forest is absolute dynamite in the live theatre; here, he comes across as miscast. (Imagine Sam Spade played by Tom Hanks, and you'll be in the right ballpark). What an odd person to choose to replace Brian Keith. (And wasn't Brian Keith a weird person to choose in the first place?) There's a short tantalising 'dream sequence' at the end as Hammett converts his recent experiences into a completely different plot from the one we have just seen. Wonder if these are clippings from the 'lost version'? Anyway, it's the nicest piece of whimsy in the whole film. Otherwise, it feels flat and style-free, and it simply lacks elan. Fassbinder used to knock out things like this over a weekend; this feels arduous. (God it would be tiresome for all concerned to reshoot a whole movie. Particularly if it's for Yankee bankers who presumably want it all 'dumbed down'...) Wim Wenders. If you've seen 'Burden of Dreams', you'll know he looked a lot like his title character when this was made. Does it mean anything?
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Flat, no chemistry
djfrank-110 February 2006
A disappointing effort by a fine cast of actors, this movie's dialog is hackneyed, a fact which is exaggerated by the lack of chemistry among the characters. With few exceptions, there's barely any life here, just a bunch of people saying lines at each other. What a waste.

Lydia Lei is the best of the lot, capturing the right feel for her critical character. Elisha Cook, Jr. is fine in his role--Anarchist, with syndicalist tendencies--gotta love that. The rest of the cast is left floundering, even Forrest when anyone else is in the scene. Given the body of work most of them have shown us, the direction is the problem here. A bad imitation of the original film noir opus.

Barry's music is fine, the film looks good, but comparing it favorably with _The Maltese Falcon_ and films of that era is insulting to the tradition.
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Skillful Blend of Fact & Fiction
ken200020 April 2003
Hammett is an entertaining film noir. Mixing up the real Hammett with his various creations as well as their cinematic renditions, this film tells a neat little mystery tale in late '20s San Francisco. Freddy Forrest does a good job as Hammett (which he would reprise in the 1992 HBO biopic Citizen Cohn). The music by John Williams has just the right moodiness and romanticism that he also infused to a more acute degree in Body Heat. Even if some of Hammett does not make any sense and the characters seem too outrageous to be believed, what of it? Good film noir is sinister melodrama anyway and this is what is delivered in this fine movie. (The Peter Boyle character was originally played by the actor Brian Keith, but because of the start and stop production, Keith was replaced by Boyle. In the finished film, certain long shots actually have footage featuring Keith. That big overcoat and hat, shot from behind make it next to impossible to tell the difference.)
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Visually impressive
ginocox-206-33696831 March 2023
Hammet (1982) feels a bit like a direct-to-video production, in part because the movie is over forty years old, but also because it tries to capture the feel of classic cinema noir films. Kudos to the design team for meticulous attention to detail.

Like more recent productions, such as See How They Run (2022) and The Raven (2012), the movie embroils a renowned author in a fictional mystery much like the stories the author wrote. The result is a bit unfocused, as the biopic elements take screen time away from the mystery. Unfortunately, Dashiell Hammett doesn't come across as particularly interesting. He's modestly successful, a capable writer, respected, knowledgeable, and knows a lot of people. He was also a heavy smoker and an alcoholic who died of lung cancer - characteristics which add screen time without contributing to the mystery.

The movie is impressively authentic visually and offers an interesting perspective on the author's personality during one stage of his life, before he became a hermit. But ultimately, it fails to engage.
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Very Good Adaptation Of Gores' Novel
film_poster_fan5 March 2023
Having met Joe Gores, the author of the novel on which this film is based, and, also having read the novel, this is a good adaptation of "Hammett." Frederic Forrest's portrayal of Dashiell Hammett is quite faithful and Peter Boyle turns in an excellent performance. Hammett lived in San Francisco during his most productive years when he wrote most of his short stories and when he wrote "The Glass Key" and "The Maltese Falcon." He never would have called the city "Frisco" as one reviewer repeatedly does and having been born in this city by the bay, neither would I.

There other items said by reviewers that are not true. For example, one claims that the leading character "make one lose interest in this story by the halfway point." The story is very compelling and make one want to see how it all ends. Another insults Hammett by calling him "Dash Hammett the detective writer," while The New York Times wrote that "Hammett's prose was clean and entirely unique. His characters were as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction." A reviewer comments that Peter Boyle "looked like he was reading his lines from a cue card," which is far from the truth. As written above, Boyle was very good.
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