Violence, drugs in slick, cynical private-eye story.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Marlowe is a 1930s-set mystery/thriller featuring Raymond Chandler's iconic literary detective character Philip Marlowe (Liam Neeson), although it's based on a newer 2014 novel by John Banville. Violence includes guns and shootings (sometimes fatal), blood spurts and bloody wounds, dead bodies, fighting, punching, head-bashing, etc. A character's head is run over by a car, and a woman is threatened with a knife and a gun. There's kissing, mature sexual dialogue, infidelity, and brief scenes inside a sex club with scantily clad women. Language includes several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "ass," "goddamn," and more. Drug smuggling is part of the plot, a character sniffs cocaine, and characters drink (mainly whiskey) frequently and smoke cigarettes constantly. The story is more cynical than exciting or clever, but veteran director Neil Jordan's skill and Neeson's slick performance make it worth a look for teens and up.
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What's the Story?
In MARLOWE, it's 1939, and private eye Philip Marlowe (Liam Neeson) is visited by society woman Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger). She hires him to locate her missing lover, Nico Peterson, who's been declared dead, but Clare insists that he's still alive. Things get even twistier when Nico's sister, Lynn (Daniela Melchior), is brutally murdered. As Marlowe digs deeper, he finds himself in a world of faded movie stars (Jessica Lange) and dirty schemers and shady businessmen like Lou Hendricks (Alan Cumming) and Floyd Hanson (Danny Huston), with everything leading to a powerful character called The Ambassador. After Hanson makes his move, capturing and torturing Hendricks to find the location of a valuable object, Marlowe teams up with Hendricks' driver, Cedric (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), to take matters into his own hands.
Is It Any Good?
While the mystery here may disappoint Raymond Chandler fans, the rest of this well-crafted detective movie enthralls with its stylish, sordid underworld and fresh take on a classic character. Veteran director Neil Jordan directs Marlowe, and his high level of skill is immediately apparent. In his decades-long career, Jordan has proven to be most at home with crime stories, like this and the classic Mona Lisa. He has also worked with Liam Neeson several times, including on the biopic Michael Collins. Between them, there's hardly a misstep here, with Neeson finding Marlowe's complex moral center, as well as his dry charm. The catch is that this isn't a classic detective story like The Big Sleep. There isn't really an aha! moment in which everything becomes clear. Marlowe is more of a cynical, subversive story -- like Robert Altman's grungy version of Chandler's The Long Goodbye -- using its familiar setting and characters to uncover hypocrisy, greed, and immorality. It can feel like a bit of a drag, but the point is not to wallow in nostalgia, but rather to suggest that the good ol' days weren't necessarily good.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Marlowe's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
What are the characters' attitudes toward sex in this movie? What values are imparted?
How are smoking, drinking, and drug use depicted? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences? Why is that important?
How is the Black character, Cedric, depicted? Does he have agency? How is his character affected by the time in which the story takes place?
How does this take on Marlowe differ from previous versions of the character? How is he similar?
- On DVD or streaming: February 15, 2023
- Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger
- Director: Neil Jordan
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, violent content, some sexual material and brief drug use
- Last updated: March 20, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
The Big Sleep
Classic noir gem has menace, innuendo.
Great hardboiled detective film is very violent.
Murder on the Orient Express
Colorful, thoughtful, classical mystery has some violence.
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Crime story from skilled director has strong violence.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Full of murder and deceit; too violent for kids.
For kids who love thrills
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