Released: 22nd November 2018
Seen: 11th January 2019
I’ve now been writing reviews for a little over the year and in that time I’ve had some interesting experiences when it comes to picking what to cover, like when I was just starting out and did a run at a film festival or covering a film I supported on Kickstarter, but I think my favorites have been when someone has messaged me asking me to do a review of a movie for them. This has only happened a few times, most notably when a friend of mine asked me to take part in a 70’s 80’s & 90’s review set and I reviewed the horror classic Friday the 13th. Well today we have another case of this happening. I received a message on my Facebook page asking me to review the movie Clyde Cooper, a film that I’d never heard of before but the trailer alone made my eyebrow go up out of curiosity. This is something I’m always happy to do, especially with films that are more on the indie side. If you know of any you think I might enjoy or that I might hate and want to enjoy my suffering, feel free to send me the name and a legal way to view it in Australia (Because, as I’ve mentioned on some of my end of year lists, Australia is dumb and bad when it comes to release schedules) and I’m happy to do it when I have a break from the mainstream release schedule and Netflix.
SO, is this film going to be one I enjoy or one that ends with me suffering?
Clyde Cooper is a modern noir detective thriller with all the trappings that that genre description implies. Constant narration by the main character, Clyde Cooper (Jordi Vilasuso), who is constantly surrounded in a thick swirl of smoke from his constant vaping habit. He’s given the task of finding out the identity and location of a woman who went missing, having given a fake name to her boyfriend. On the way he runs into a bunch of femme fatales and a Silicon Valley plot about prostitution. He goes about town to search for clues while regularly being in rooms where the lighting casts harsh shadows of the venetian blinds on the walls or monologuing while drinking a fine scotch at a desk. He drives around a quaint little town while jazz music plays and he tries his best to solve the mystery of just who this girl is and why a mysterious corporation wants to find her even more than her beau does.
You can tell right away that this film was made on a smaller budget, which can excuse a lot of things because a film budget can determine just what you can afford to do. This is not a multi-million dollar blockbuster movie, this is an indie film and it shows. The editing is a little off and there is something about the visual quality that doesn’t look quite right. While I need to acknowledge those issues, they’re common in a lot of indie films so they can be looked past since that is part of the downside of making a film when the time, budget and technology are limited. Ask any film student how it feels to try and make a film on little to no money, you don’t get much to work with so flaws are forgivable to a certain extent. What really helps this film is that even though the visuals are off, there’s so many Noir-style shots that get the feel of the genre just right. The framing and setup just belong in those old cheesy thrillers and seeing those being mixed up with modern technology is an interesting juxtaposition. Noir detective films, especially ones made after that genre stopped being mainstream, try hard to feel lifted right out of the old days but when you have a detective who vapes looking into a crime in Silicon Valley where everyone’s using technology, it creates an interesting new aesthetic that’s a lot of fun if you’re familiar enough with the old tropes to see where they’ve diverged from them and where they’ve lifted them to put into this new context.
The acting in this film is a little hammy. A lot of these wouldn’t feel out of place in a daytime soap opera where the actors have under a day to film an hour of television and there are quite a few line deliveries that could either come from a corny noir thriller or a porno, but it’s so entertaining that I’m OK with it. I need to give a huge chunk of the credit for how enjoyable this film is to the star of the show. Jordi Vilasuso, who is known mostly for his work in soap operas, is absolutely captivating as Clyde. Every line delivery is perfect and he manages to create this absurdly cool detective who looks like he belongs standing in the shadows at all times. He basically carries the film and manages to make every scene feel classy, even the ones where he’s talking to a woman in a kitchen and it feels like we’re just waiting for the saxophone solo from Careless Whisper to play while he takes her to the bedroom.
For the first half of this film everything feels like a classic noir but there’s something around the halfway point where we jump the shark into glorious weirdness and I’m not going to spoil it but let’s just say that this film definitely embraces the technology aspect of this modernized noir. It’s certainly a fun movie but I kind of wish it had pushed the noir aspect further, maybe made the film in black and white and harshen the lighting a little more and push the concept to the limit. It would have helped hide a lot of the flaws and been a fun way to sell the “noir thriller but in modern times” idea.
While the start of the movie is a slow burn, reveling in playing with the tropes of the genre and dabbling in a little almost-porno style writing, by the time the film gets to the end it’s gone insane and I kind of love it for that. On a technical level the film is average, on an acting level the film is average and on a writing level the film is average BUT I can’t help it, there’s something about how this film is trying so hard to take itself so seriously that makes me hope it becomes one of those cult films that gets passed around. Clyde Cooper is a really fun film with a lot going for it, although it suffers with a few visual stumbles, some strange writing and some performances that aren’t great but for the most part it’s a fun indie cult film that I enjoyed. If anything that I’ve said about this movie sounds like it’s up your alley, it’s on Amazon on DVD right now if you want to have a look.