30 November 2013 | bob the moo
Plodding and lacking atmosphere
This film offers a lot of potential. The cast features Robinson and Ladd, the city in the background is a great one and the plot offers us murder, conspiracy, betrayal, infidelity and revenge. So why is it so very pedestrian from start to finish? I'm not totally sure as to the why but I have little doubt this is the case since the film really crawled across my screen, offering very little to make me sit up and take notice at any point. The problems for me are several but they are mostly intertwined to create one central problem which is that the film really lacks atmosphere and tension.
The most obvious cause of this is the setting and the delivery. San Francisco is a beautiful city and one filled with coolness; it isn't the best backdrop for a tough noir-esque film. The film delivers the city in full color with lots of space and vibrancy and this doesn't help the tone of the film. This isn't to say that such a film can't be set in such a place, but if it does then it needs to create an atmosphere another way – setting it in gritty urban decay would have helped but it isn't necessary if ou deliver with plot, performances and other ways to make atmosphere. Sadly this film doesn't. In terms of characters they are flat and the performances match this. Ladd is supposed to be bitter and driven by rage but never looks more annoyed than someone who has misplaced their car keys. He really sleeps through this and even in the "dramatic" conclusion, his face is more emotionless than Steven Seagal. Robinson does his thing but without anything much to work with, so he is only his usual style, nothing special. The rest of the cast have some good turns but generally the pace is set by the leads – and the pace is slow.
This really hurts the atmosphere and I never felt anything other than a general plod through a plot which didn't have anything to it. The bright color and space of the film doesn't help, but the lackluster performances and lack of general tension or atmosphere do more damage again.