Based on the speculative novel by Joe Gores, the story concerns real-life detective novelist Dashiell Hammett (Frederic Forest), who early in his career becomes unexpectedly involved in a complex mystery involving the disappearance of a beautiful Chinese cabaret actress in San Francisco.
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Not all of the pieces fit together, but Hammett’s shaggy-dog nature actually works to its benefit, since gumshoes like Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade don’t solve cases so much as get kicked around by them.
Pretty underrated and great for a film that Wenders r.didn't have complete control. While Chinatown was a blend of actors looking like 40s noir icons and post-method style acting, this film is the best recreation of that era's style of acting mixed with modern filmmaking. Frederic Forrest was excellant in a rare lead role. If he'd been born 40 yrs earlier he'd have been a movie star. Wenders' should be proud.
While it will transport you to its setting, Hammett does nothing else. It tries to outsmart its own neo-noir genre, often trying to make its world more visceral and plot too complex, though this results in it feeling longer and boring. Hammett sets itself up with potential but fails to meet it.
3.5. Splendid Zoetrope sets, great portrayals of "the crooks, the cops, and the rich" of San Francisco, as well as Hammett and assorted other hardboiled characters, and a fitting noir tale make for fun entertainment.
Has the style and elements of a noir, a pretty fun cast of players, and some very capable filmmakers... however... this film just fails to captivate me in any way.
It lacks the intricacy and true desperation of a film noir. Weird, because all the elements seem to be there... but it just doesn't deliver.