When a Las Vegas performer-turned-snitch named Buddy Israel decides to turn state's evidence and testify against the mob, it seems that a whole lot of people would like to make sure he's no longer breathing.
Struggling private investigator Louis Simo treats his work more as a means to make a living than a want to do right by what few clients he has. Through connections with the investigation firm for which he used to work, Simo is hired by Helen Bessolo to investigate the death of her son, actor George Reeves. Reeves was best known for his title role in Adventures of Superman (1952), a role which he always despised, in part since it typecast him as a "cartoon", despite it bringing him a certain fame. His June 16, 1959 death by a single gunshot wound while in his bedroom in his Los Angeles home was ruled a suicide by the police, the death which occurred when the house was filled with people. Reeves' story is told in part in flashback as Simo, who is trying to make a name for himself with this case, talks to or tries to talk to some of the players involved, most specifically the wife of MGM General Manager E.J. Mannix, Toni Mannix, with whom Reeves was having a relatively open and ...Written by
Somebody beat up the private eye already, so we can see the Reeves mystery
You would wonder why a movie looking at the 1959 suicide (or possible murder) of a moderately well known actor would take over two hours running time to tell the story. It's because the movie is really two stories run side by side. There are flashback sequences of George Reeves (Ben Affleck) in the last few years of his life, inter cut with scenes of a private eye trying to uncover facts about the actor's death.
The story line about the sleazy detective (Adrien Brody) with some hot shot self important attitude adds nothing, and just bogs down the pacing of the film. In truth, he's nothing but a two-bit nobody that sticks big wads of gum in his ugly mouth, and tries to accuse and exploit everybody in sight, even the mother of George Reeves, who hired him in the first place. As if that isn't enough, you're subjected to the long-since overused cliché of a divorced dad's problems with his ex and son. Nobody cares. I kept hoping somebody would beat the daylights out of this idiot, and reduce his ego a few hundred notches. These scenes rarely address or reveal anything about the mystery. Apparently, this whole scenario illustrates a parallel between this character and Reeves himself, but so what?
On the other hand, the Reeves biography is well executed. The latter-day version of film noor is utilized: deep brownish/orange hues employed to indicate period and mood, rather than the original black-and-white technique. It works, although the retro classic B&W would probably have been better for a murder mystery like this. Affleck rises from the ashes of Gigli and Pearl Harbor (and other duds) to give a great performance. Any fan of the original Superman TV series would immediately see he did his homework in researching Reeves. Subtleties such as the sly grin, and the speed of his speech matched the real Reeves well. When he had the Clark Kent glasses on, especially, the effect was almost eerie. Diane Lane is spectacular with her aging starlet style character. Other actors in the cast shine, as well.
Superior acting, an intriguing famous mystery, retro film noor styling, these were great and should have been enough. The excess baggage detective scenes detract from the movie, but it's still good enough to watch. It might be better to wait for the DVD release--you could fast forward though all the superfluous scenes.
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