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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Too Late

Wow, Too Late is a terrible film. Yet, as terrible films go, it's eminently watchable. Written and directed by Dennis Hauck, this 2015 film is a mixture of Raymond Chandler and Quentin Tarantino, without approaching the brilliance of either, but Hauck does have some directing chops. He just can't write.

The film has a gimmick: there are four scenes, and each one is shot in a single take, a la Hitchcock's Rope. This calls for some ingenuity. In the opening scene, a young woman on a hill in L.A. calls someone. The camera zooms in on the person she is talking to (they are probably a few miles apart). In a hotel scene, the camera follows a character out of a room, down a hall, into the elevator, out to the pool, and into a parking lot. It doesn't have the snap of Scorsese's Copacabana scene from Goodfellas, but technically it's quite accomplished.

Too Late is L.A. noir. That girl on the hill is a stripper (Crystal Reed) who has seen too much. She is calling a private eye (John Hawkes), who arrives, well, too late. She has been murdered. He investigates and exacts revenge, and along the way we find out his connection to the girl.

The film is non-linear, as the four scenes are not in chronological order, a la Tarantino. The set-ups are very nice, too. In addition to the scene on Radio Hill and the hotel, one scene is in a strip club and a bar next door, and another exquisitely lit scene is at a drive-in movie theater. But here's the problem with Too Late--the dialogue.

Hauck may imagine himself a Raymond Chandler, but he's not. Not even close. I don't know what he was intending, perhaps this is an homage and not meant to be authentic, but none of the characters speak like real people do. The patter is wincingly pretentious, the kind of dialogue I might have written in college. And Hauck makes a mistake first-time screenwriters often make--everyone sounds the same, with the same smart-ass sense of humor and ability to speak without saying, "um."

In another bit of Tarantinoism, Hauck uses actors such as Robert Forster and Jeff Fahey. There is also a scene that got it the dubious award of Mr. Skin's Nude Scene of the Year. An actress named Vail Bloom does her entire scene, perhaps close to ten minutes, bottomless. Bloom, of interest to me, is a Princeton grad who was part of a controversy when I lived there. An alt Princeton newspaper ran a feature on the top ten best looking girls of Princeton, and this caused howls from all quarters. Bloom was one of them. She also went to be a Maxim Top Ten Hottie, so presumably she had no issues with this objectification.

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