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Hal MacDermot [Film Festival 05.01.09] movie review drama noir

Year: 2009
Directors: Noah Buschel
Writers: Noah Buschel
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

[Newport Beach Film Festival coverage]

“Recently, for a second or two, I almost thought that the world was a decent place to live in.” These are the words of John Rostow (Michael Shannon) when he’s in a good mood. You can imagine what a film noir, laconic, hard boiled git he is the rest of the time. THE MISSING PERSON is a dark and mostly brilliant movie that recalls the things that anti-hero Phillip Marlow and Bogart did well, like picking up bad women, wise cracking, chain smoking and drinking hard. I loved this movie, although I wanted it to be even darker. Bombay gin in the morning coffee? Make mine a double! These are all habits that I think a man should have, at least for some of his life. If you like film noir, then director Noah Buschel has something for your addiction. The color drained print and the smoky jazz soundtrack are perfect accouterments.

Rostow is woken by an early morning phone call. He’s being hired to follow a man who’s taking a train from Chicago to Los Angeles. Minutes later, a hard assed blond knocks at his door with more instructions. Is that the taste of sexual tension in the air, or is it just contempt and conspiracy? This is film noir, so it’s probably both. As Rostow tails his subject, it turns out that the man worked in the Twin Towers and somehow survived; he used his Missing status as a chance to reinvent himself. It also turns out that they both share an interest in cool jazz, think moody keyboards and horns . The question for Rostow is, should he really drag a man back to a life that’s already been totally destroyed? Apart from all this, one of my favorite moments is Rostow bonding with NY taxi driver Hero Furillo (the talented John Ventimiglia) over Serpico. Serpico? That’s hilarious! It reminded me of John Turturro’s amazing cameo in the Big Lebowski, though I can’t exactly say why.

There are many sweet spots in this movie. Shannon’s performance as the world weary P.I. with a good heart somewhere hidden inside, is one. Then there is Ryan Samul’s (the Mulberry Street film about rats) cinematography, cue the leached out colors and shadows. It evokes a time in the 30s and 40s when detectives like Rostow were the popular heroes of the imagination. Of course nowadays, as the blond says to him, “do private investigators even exist anymore?” The last Noir I saw was “Brick” and ever since I’ve been pining for anti-heroes.

All that said, a few things bothered me about the movie. First, this is film noir, innit? So the women should have been way darker and more dangerous. Actually, even if it wasn’t film noir the women should have stronger roles, more POW! This is not about the acting of Amy Ryan (flirty, hard assed blond Charlie) and Margaret Colin (naughty, ageing, sexy Lana), which was brilliant, it’s about the script. I really wanted the story to be darker. It just didn’t feel like Rostow was in enough danger. He doesn’t get beaten up badly enough. The bad guys need to be badder. On the same note, the dude who is so scared of his former life, I thought there should be a greater reason for his fear. The above critique is all about one thing: if you’re going to do film noir, then the content of your soul needs to be as black as the coat you wear. Those are my gripes and groans, but let me say this, The Missing Person is still a brilliant flick and inspired me personally to go to a bar, consume martinis and dream about the good old days when I used to be a chain smoker. All that’s missing now is for me to meet a drop dead gorgeous woman of dubious morality with a penchant for heinous crimes.

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Oliver Coleman (13 years ago) Reply

What a stupid review. This was a great movie about alcoholism and loss and it inspired you to go out and drink a martini and dream of chain-smoking? You really missed it. It's like you just reviewed the shallow, Frank Miller movie you wanted it to be.

I never trust sites deticated to certain genres, and this review is exactly why. You gave a positive review to a move you didn't even understand at all, simply because it is in the guise of a noir film. I personally don't even think it is a noir film. It just happens to have detective and a lot of noir surface elements. It's a pretty unique movie and shouldn't be boxed into any one category.

Anyway-- incredibly immature review of a very mature film. It was best I saw at Newport.


agentorange (13 years ago) Reply

Totally disagree. This is like a hard boiled review of, what sounds like, a hard boiled film. Having a sense of humor doesn't make you immature. I thought it was written quite well and extremely positive. My Gods man, he calls the film "nearly brilliant." What more do you want?


quietearth (13 years ago) Reply

Alcoholism and noir as a backdrop to grief and closure..

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