Friday, December 16, 2016

Too Late (2015) A "Tarantinian" Neo Noir


A nice discovery, right before Christmas, Too Late was actually first brought to my attention by a review in The New York Times. A review that I stumbled upon while doing a search online for something else almost a half year ago. It was well after Too Late left the few theaters it was screened at. I just discovered it's available to watch now on Netflix streaming. Neo Noir is alive and doing well.

Too Late is a surprisingly brilliant addition to the Private Eye & Neo Noir Pantheon. This film passed well under practically everyone's "noir-dar" when it was debuted on March 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California, followed on the 25th in New York City. With all the current zeitgeist going towards blockbusters, "celebrities" and oscar bait, and this having an extremely limited release, hardly anyone has seen much less heard of this fantastic modern take on Noir.

The film was directed and sharpley written by Dennis Hauck, the cinematography was by Bill Fernandez, and has an eclectic smorgasbord of music by Robert Allaire. Upon first viewing you'll see obvious nods to Sergio Leone's narrative style from Once Upon A Time In America that Tarantino homaged in Pulp Fiction. This is coupled with some intelligent and, if you pay attention, clue filled dialog vis-à-vis again, Tarantino. It also uses split screen in some sequences (Marlowe (1969)) and is loaded with other subtle noir and film references, i.e., an interesting off beat quote from Altman's Short Cuts (1993). There are probably more. The film was shot not only in 35mm Techniscope, but also in five Acts, twenty-two minute individual takes, with no hidden cuts or other editing.

Dorothy (Crystal Reed)  and Neo Bunker Hill in the b.g.

Radio Hill

Skippy Fontaine (Brett Jacobsen) lt. and Dorothy
Too Late stars John Hawkes (D.O.A. (1988), Winter's Bone (2010), The Pardon (2013)) as a damaged, pushing 60, hawk-nosed, rough, weary, stringbean freelance Private Detective Mel Sampson, he's also a smoker, a toker, and a boozer. Crystal Reed (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (TV Series 2010)) as Dorothy, Vail Bloom (Angel of Death (2009)) as ex stripper, femme fatale Janet Lyons, Jeff Fahey (Impulse (1990), Planet Terror (2007), Machete (2010)), as "Cowboy" Roger Fontaine, Gordy's muscle, Robert Forster (Jackie Brown (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001), Hotel Noir (2012)) as Gordy Lyons mobbed up strip club owner, Joanna Cassidy (The Outfit (1973), The Laughing Policeman (1973), Blade Runner (1982) ) as Eleanor Mahler, Natalie Zea () Brett Jacobsen as "Skippy" Fontaine, Dichen Lachman as Jilly Bean, Dash Mihok as Jesse, Sydney Tamiia Poitier as Veronica, and Rider Strong as Matthew.

Mel Sampson (John Hawkes )
Janet (Vail Bloom)

Gordy Lyons (Robert Forster)

Eleanor Mahler (Joanna Cassidy) 

 Jilly Bean (Dichen Lachman)

Mary (Natalie Zea)
L.A., 2015. In some perverse joke of the gods, Bunker Hill rises in its skyscraper reincarnation, dwarfing the stubby spike of the Los Angeles City Hall. The view is from Radio Hill, and down across a yellowish, smog shrouded Chinatown. A woman, Dorothy, calls Mel Sampson P.I. for help. He's Too Late. She's dead.

What follows, time jumps between the present, seven years in the past, and five days ago, and is wondrously Noirsville.

A bizarre confrontation on a hilltop patio between Sampson, Gordy, Fontaine, and Fontaine's and Gordy's less than classy ex stripper wives, Veronica, and the half naked Janet.

A stripbar cute meet between Sampson, Dorothy, and Sampson's future gal pal Jilly Bean, followed by a late night nightcap at a C&W bar.

The reveal in an L.A. hotel room between Sampson, and Mary and Eleanor Mahler.

The botched attempted murder of a witness.

Noirsville
Janet rt. and Veronica lt. (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) 


Mel, Sampson, Cowboy Rodger (Jeff Fahey), Gordy Lyons






























The acting in the film by all the principles is impeccable. John Hawkes' Mel Sampson is the anti Hollywood pretty boy hero, it took me a few reflective hours to put my finger on who he reminds me of. If you grew up in the late 60's and were a part of the counterculture and read many of the seminal works of the underground comix movement you'll see the visual resemblance to comix icon R. Crumb. He downplays his part, making him accessible and believable.

Neo Noir vet Robert Forster is a nasty piece of work as the hard barked stripclub owner. Jeff Fahey is teddy bear-ish, good ol' boy enforcer with a broken leg. Vail Bloom is touching as the wound a bit too tight, ex stripper beauty, who crumbles disastrously, when her world comes tumbling down. Natalie Zea is heartbreaking in the part of Mary.

Too Late is at the moment available on Netflix streaming. If I have to point out any minuses I would say it could have used a bit more outdoor location footage, but that's me. A thinking man's Noir 9/10.


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