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TOO LATE – Film Review – John Hawkes in Film Noir Farrago

TOO LATE film poster crop

TOO LATE is a too-clever-by-half attempt at smart modern film noir, set in a particularly seedy (realistic) version of Tinsel Town. It is saddled with  absolutely obnoxious, pretentiously interminable sequences of dialog which begin in the first scene and never cease. With a convoluted time-shifting plot, it just works far too hard creating an ambiance of sleazy, nihilistic hopelessness in beautiful, sun-shiny Hollywood, CA.

Though I suppose that part of it is easy to believe. Sadly, quite a bit of the rest is not.

TOO LATE Poster Series Dash Mihok

You don't have to go anywhere, Jesse. You're in this film, and that's close enough.

John Hawkes (as Sampson) takes the lead role as a love-lorn, guilt-ridden, down-on-his-luck failed detective (one of the many standard tropes which are acceptable in genre efforts such as this one). He's a fine character actor and displays a range of skills but is ultimately way out of his depth (or maybe writer-director Dennis Hauck is in a tortured plot of his own creation).

This is one of those films where you stop caring about the mystery within minutes because the characters are all a bit too tropey – even for bohemian tastes such as mine – despite the overly loquacious yibbling. Quite a few verge on cardboard cutout, like our big, dumb enforcer Jesse, as seen in one of the film's variant posters. TOO LATE does have some very fine cinematography and complex tracking shots, worthy of a much better film, courtesy of Bill Fernandez.

A gritty and overly-earnest pastiche, rife with wanna-bes, burnouts, creeps and losers, it aspires to Shakespearian pathos and Greek tragedy, but quickly loses it's way – and probably most of it's viewers, too. At times, you just have no earthly idea what is going on, or why. However, the film does have a particular and rare distinction; actual originality here and there. So much so that it surprised and momentarily delighted even an old salt such as myself.

In particular, TOO LATE does something yours truly has never seen before. Ever. On this one score, I commend it.

To wit, the highlight – arguably lowlight – of the entire movie is a long, pivotal sequence with an utterly unabashed bottomless actress, who gives, perhaps, the film's most compelling, interesting and emotive performance. And that has absolutely nothing to do with her very fine derriere. Though I confess – sight of it doesn't hurt, either. It momentarily woke me out of the metastasizing malaise this film otherwise inflicts. Vail Bloom (as Janet) is lovely and convincingly disturbed, but the scene itself is quite ugly. In it, the always reliable Robert Forster plays her husband, a philandering, felonious club owner. Jeff Fahey is his equally scummy partner, giving a performance so hammy I was thankful when it all ended in blood.

Johanna Cassidy is to be seen at one point, briefly. She's billed on Netflix despite this short, phone-in performance, but in fairness, it's not her fault.

Brett Jacobson's turn as a psychopath (Fontaine) is almost interesting except for, once again, absurdly over the top word play between himself and Crystal Reed (Dorothy). She is the obligatory “love interest” and by far the best thing about TOO LATE overall.

The film does have one additional nice surprise in a final scene which answers all the puzzling, lingering questions with one framing shot, but it's hardly worth the near agony of sitting through the entire damn thing. Too little, TOO LATE.

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About the Author K.S. Knight

KSK had his first professional work published at 14, and has been writing ever since. Recent works include QANON & TRUMP EXPOSED, a serious examination of the inane, insane, harebrained conspiracy theory, and THE TOP 10 MOST POPULAR WESTERN NOVELS OF ALL TIME. Future works will be fiction, though one can argue that in the Age of Trump, reality is already fiction, like Donald's tan, his "$10+ billion dollars" and his integrity.

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