Gumshoe Stephen Frears

Gumshoe Stephen Frears
Gumshoe, Stephen Frears' first feature film, is very much a product of its time. The '70s found many popular directors re-examining the film noir detective genre. The difference between Gumshoe and films like Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye and Roman Polanski's Chinatown is that the protagonist of Gumshoe isn't a real detective, just a big fan. Albert Finney plays Eddie Ginley, a Liverpool bingo caller who puts an ad in the paper offering his services as a private detective. Though Eddie has no real detective experience, he does own a trench coat and has an extensive knowledge of Dashell Hammet books. Eddie is soon drawn into a convoluted, hardboiled plot armed only with the ability to banter and quip his way through any conversation. The film rides the line between earnest mystery and wacky spoof, never settling on a firm tone. The story, supporting characters and even (sorry, Mr. Frears) direction are as confused as they are confusing. Fortunately Finney creates a charismatic lead persona, constantly engaging and delightfully referential for old movie buffs, which the film is clearly directed towards. The DVD was issued under a new "Martini Movies" collection, despite the fact that there are no martinis present in the film. The design of the DVD cover looks like the cheap public domain DVDs you can buy at Wal Mart, so I was surprised to find that the disc was actually issued by Sony. Why they thought they needed to release this film under the guise of "Martini Movies" with several other unrelated films is beyond me. Disappointingly, the only extra features on the disc are about the "Martini Movies" despite the fact that each one is glaringly dissimilar from the other. I shouldn't complain though, the film has been out of print since the '80s and I'm glad it's finally available. (Sony)