'Watching the Detectives' is sharp yet low-key,
Cillian Murphy and Lucy Liu.
comedy “Watching the Detectives,” recently run in the Tribeca Film
Festival, is implausible but entertaining, and amusing enough if you
just go with it.
The film features Cillian Murphy as Neil, a straitlaced owner of his own
independent video store, and Lucy Liu as Violet, the proverbial free
spirit who shakes up Neil’s methodical and orderly life. It springs from
the mind of writer/director Paul Soter, a member of the Broken Lizard
comedy group that made broader comedies “Club Dread,” “Super Troopers”
and “Beerfest,” but his project has a completely different tone than
“Watching the Detectives” indulges some parody of film noir pointedly in
its beginning, even making reference to Steve Martin’s classic spoof
“Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” in its dialogue. Liu veers between being a
femme fatale and a free spirit, actually, but the stakes of this movie
are never quite as dire as an actual film noir.
Actually, the movie is saved from becoming just another chick flick
romance by its supporting cast, notably Michael Panes and Jason Sudeikis,
as Murphy’s friends/employees. A perfect example happens when Liu
returns to the store early in the movie to return her rental only
halfway watched, and Panes guesses by the position of the videotape
where in the movie she stopped -- and why.
It’s an inventive little set piece, and it carries through to some of
the stunts Liu pulls to mess with Murphy’s world -- like providing a
deluxe picnic lunch for them and another couple that turns out to be
stolen from another couple that actually brought it to the park. Plus
you never know what Liu will pull out of her purse that’s ideal for a
given situation -- a giant calculator, binoculars, etc.
All in all, when this does hit theaters in general release (the festival
ends today), it definitely delivers enough sharp, snappy dialogue and
scenes fleshing out its story to make it an enjoyable night out.