What is Marlowe about? Liam Neeson’s new movie explained

Liam Neeson in MarloweOpen Road Films

Marlowe, a new neo-noir thriller starring Liam Neeson, has just landed in cinemas – here’s a rundown on what the movie is about, who’s in it, and what you can expect.

What do you want from your detective movies? Is it the grim horrors of Prisoners and Se7en, the laugh-out-loud, violent antics of The Nice Guys and Bad Boys, or are you looking for a sturdy whodunnit, like Knives Out or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?

Liam Neeson has his fair share, whether it’s playing Matthew Scudder in A Walk Among The Tombstones or Brian Mills in Taken (okay, he’s a CIA agent in the latter, but he does have a particular set of skills).

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His newest role is in Marlowe, placing him in the 1920s as an iconic detective – here’s what you need to know.

What is Marlowe about?

Marlowe stars Neeson as Philip Marlowe, a “street-wise, down-on-his-luck detective hired to find the ex-lover of a glamorous heiress, who’s the daughter of a movie star. The disappearance unearths a web of lies, and soon Marlowe is involved in a dangerous, deadly investigation where everyone involved has something to hide.”

Check out the trailer below:

The character was created by Raymond Chandler, first appearing in his 1939 novel The Big Sleep. This marks the first time he’s appeared in a big-screen movie since 1978’s adaptation of the book, in which Robert Mitchum starred in the role.

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As a character, Marlowe is a pillar of the hardboiled crime genre, and Chandler’s storytelling influences can be seen and read far and wide, from Chinatown to The Big Lebowski and Brick.

The new film is an adaptation of 2014’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, a sequel to The Long Goodbye (the novel, not the 1973 movie starring Elliot Gould) authorized by Chandler’s estate. Unlike the book, it moves the story to the 1930s instead of the ’50s.

The book’s synopsis reads: “Marlowe is as restless and lonely as ever, and business is a little slow. Then a new client is shown in; young, beautiful, and expensively dressed, she wants Marlowe to find her former lover, a man named Nico Peterson.

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“Marlowe sets off on his search, but almost immediately discovers that Peterson’s disappearance is merely the first in a series of bewildering events. Soon he is tangling with one of Bay City’s richest families and developing a singular appreciation for how far they will go to protect their fortune.”

Marlowe cast: Who’s in it?

Alongside Liam Neeson as the movie’s titular detective, Marlowe stars:

  • Diane Kruger as Clare Cavendish
  • Jessica Lange as Dorothy Cavendish
  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Cedric
  • Alan Cumming as Lou Hendricks
  • Danny Huston as Floyd Hanson
  • Ian Hart as Joe Green
  • Colm Meaney as Bernie Ohls
  • Daniela Melchior as Lynn Peterson
  • François Arnaud as Nico Peterson
  • Seána Kerslake as Amanda Toxteh
  • Patrick Muldoon as Richard Cavendish

In an interview with Collider, Neeson spoke about playing Marlowe in his 100th movie. “I mean, if I go back to being a child many, many years ago… watching film noir, I remember, especially [Humphrey] Bogart, The Big Sleep I think it was, and I was intrigued,” he said.

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Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger in MarloweOpen Road Films

“I couldn’t, at that age, follow the stories, but there was something magical about it, you know? Shadowy figures, murky, shady characters, and stuff that really attracted me.

“So, to get the chance to play Marlowe along with Robert Mitchum, and I idolized Elliott Gould, and Bogart, of course. I feel very honored, and to get a chance to work with Neil Jordan again. This is our fourth film together.”

The movie is directed by the aforementioned Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview with a Vampire) and penned for the screen by William J. Monahan, the Oscar-winning writer behind The Departed.

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Is Marlowe worth watching?

Well, Marlowe has a 23% score on Rotten Tomatoes, branded a “noir misfire” that borders on parody.

The AV Club described it as “mostly misguided” and “the latest of perhaps too many attempts to pour the old wine of Chandler’s fiction into new bottles, and then sell the resulting concoction as vintage.”

The Washington Post’s review said: “Marlowe is the cinematic equivalent of a word salad: It parrots all the right lines while striking all the right poses, without saying much of anything at all.”

In a positive review, RogerEbert.com wrote: “At the movie’s end, the detective behaves a little more like a Dashiell Hammett protagonist than Raymond Chandler would think advisable. Revisionist this may be, but it’s done with smarts and, sure… perceptiveness and sensitivity.”

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Marlowe is available to watch in cinemas now.