Saturday, November 27, 2010

"The Detective" is Gritty and Very Well Done

Frank Sinatra is a name synonymous with crooning, blue eyes and being "chairman of the board". This film from 1968 shows his blue eyes in a dark, film-noir setting. There's no crooning. What it lacks in his crooning, it makes up for in suspense, intrigue, and an excellent performance by Sinatra and other actors in the cast.

Sinatra plays Detective Joe Leland, a New York City detective. The film begins with the death of a gay man. As Joe delves into the case, questioning friends, family and lovers, he uncovers and unravels links to corruption in the City. He soon realizes that the corruption can be traced back to a source closer to him than he'd care to admit. As he begins to pull at all of the lose ends, he becomes embroiled in a conspiracy rife with sex, drugs and betrayals. All the while, he has to deal with his personal life. As the film begins, Joe and his girlfriend Karen, played by the late Lee Remick, discuss marriage. Knowing full well what Joe does for a living, she accepts. But turmoil begins to mount for the new spouses. Each has a jealous nature, and both parties are tested the further Joe delves into the case.

This film, I feel, is a throw back to the earlier Cagney and Robinson era of film noir. That being said, this film studies subjects that would have never been explored in a film made twenty years earlier, mainly because of the censorship laws of the time. It's a dark, moody film, yet Sinatra manages to bring a lightness to it, while still being as dark and intense as the film matter. Case in point, Joe's relationship with his partner and best friend, Dave, played by veteran actor Jack Klugman. While working on this case, each man can still make jokes at the other's expense. At times they're self-effacing. Remick's portrayal as Karen Leland certainly deserves recognition as well. She can certainly hold her own opposite Sinatra. While he's dark and intense, so is she. When he's light, she comes back with an equal lightness.

As I mentioned, this is a dark, intense tale that will make the hairs on your neck stand. If you don't like the bygone era of the 1930s and 40s film noir genre, then I would not recommend this film for you. However, if you're open minded and love a good thriller, then this film will be perfect for you. As much as one can enjoy a story of murder, betrayal and corruption, I did. I would absolutely recommend it.

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