The Detective’s Lover (Running Wild, NR)

det lover_75This is an enjoyable film that was clearly made on a micro budget and that, for the most part, makes the most of its resources.

 

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The Detective’s Lover, the second film from the Arizona-based studio Running Wild Films, LLC, mixes a classic film noir look and feel with a story set in present-day Phoenix and Winslow. It has style to spare, and style goes a long way in selling a film—and by “sell,” I mean convincing an audience to suspend their disbelief and buy into what they’re seeing on the screen.

The basic plot is pure noir: An ordinary person leading an ordinary life becomes involved in the shadow world of crime and cruelty that exists side-by-side with their everyday world. Over the course of the film, this person is inexorably drawn further and further away from the light and toward the darkness, as if impelled by the iron hand of fate.

In The Detective’s Lover, the ordinary man is reporter Scott Miller (Travis Mills, who also wrote the script and directed and produced the film), who is bored with his job and is trying to write a book about private investigators. His best friend Eddie (Scott Scheall) tells him that those days are gone, Humphrey Bogart is dead, and besides, Scott should be glad he has a job at all. The first detective Scott interviews (Dave Goodman, played by Dean Veglia) tells him more or less the same thing, and so does the second (John D., played by Rob Edwards). Instead of taking the advice offered him, however, Scott decides to do his own investigation of John D., and soon gets drawn into an underworld of beautiful women, violent men, and mysteries that only lead to other mysteries.

The strong points of The Detective’s Lover are Mills’ direction and the Dave Surber’s cinematography. Many of the shots and sequences draw on classic noir tropes, and the choices to shoot in black and white and to use a jazz score (with a little Beethoven for good measure) recall the golden age of noir, as well as the slightly post-classic television series Peter Gunn. The weak points are the script and some of the acting. The former takes the ODTAA (one damn thing after another) principle of screenwriting a little too literally, and then lays on a series of twists at the end that feel mostly like cleverness for the sake of cleverness. The blend of modern, naturalistic dialogue and heightened movie speech interferes with the film’s attempts to establish a consistent tone, and the acting ranges from pretty good to pretty bad, resulting in an uncomfortable mix that tends to take the viewer out of the story.

Despite all that, this is still an enjoyable film that was clearly made on a micro budget and that, for the most part, makes the most of its resources. The story moves along briskly, the film is full of nice little surprises (for instance, 1940s icons like a manual typewriter and a pay phone are worked into the story), and it really does look great. I hope Running Wild Films persists in its efforts, because this film is pretty good and I bet their next will be even better. | Sarah Boslaugh

The Detective’s Lover had a theatrical run in Phoenix in June and early July, and will be released for streaming and download on July 27. Further information, including the film’s trailer, is available from its website.

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