Who doesn’t love a good film noir? There is something very special about the films that dominated Hollywood in the 1940s and early 1950s. Classics like ‘Double Indemnity’, ‘Sunset Boulevard’, ‘The Big Sleep’, ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘The Third Man’ are hailed as some of the greatest movies of the era, and while the genre was very much of its time, the passion for it lives on, with noir themes influencing mainstream Hollywood productions even today. Films such as ‘L.A. Confidential’, ‘The Nice Guys’ and ‘Memento’ all contribute to the ongoing success of the genre, with varying generations of audiences.
Tom Konkle’s independent feature ‘Trouble Is My Business’ isn’t simply influenced by noir, but rather fully embraces it. The film is essentially one big homage to the time, created by a filmmaker with a clear passion for the material. It’s unashamedly a tribute to film noir itself, complete with all the genre tropes we’ve come to expect as well as particularly atmospheric cinematography.
The plot is a familiar one. Konkle himself plays Roland Drake, a private detective whose life is turned around when a young dame asks him for help. There is no need to go further into the plot here, mainly due to spoilers but largely because it’s exactly what you might expect from a film such as this. All the clichés are there; the PI, the femme fatale(s), the over-the-top dialogue, theatrical lighting, a good use of shadows. The film can be viewed in colour or black-and-white, but the latter is clearly the preferred option, despite being post-converted. The black-and-white simply suits the style of film we’re watching. One can’t help but wonder whether colour would actually have been particularly overbearing.
The production design is gorgeous and actually quite respectable for such an independent project. Everyone involved has clearly poured their heart and soul into ensuring the film stands out. It appears to be a cross between ‘Chinatown’, ‘Sin City’ and the video game ‘L.A. Noire’. Overall it works, but there are times when it isn’t quite as successful. The film uses a mixture of real locations and green screens, and sadly the latter sticks out like a sore thumb. It can sometimes look cartoonish, which is perhaps expected for such a budget, but it may have been a sensible idea to let go of that element completely and focus solely on the practical sets. It’s not a big enough problem to take enjoyment away from the film, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.
The cast are all charismatic enough and they do well with the material. The dialogue is witty, of-the-time, and mostly played for laughs. The comedic timing is well-judged, even if it can come across as cheesy on occasion. Konkle does a competent job in the leading role, but it might have been a better decision to focus solely on direction and cast somebody else as Drake. He’s not quite skilled enough to carry a film in which he features in almost every shot, but he does well with what he has and he’s clearly having a wonderful time with it.
The film might be a tad too long. Closing in on 2 hours, the twists and turns become a little much and the novelty of the film isn’t enough to carry it through to the end credits. Many classics of the era weren’t quite so long, and one can’t help but notice that ‘Trouble Is My Business’ simply doesn’t have enough ideas to warrant the minutes.
However, on the whole, this is a particularly enjoyable film that should please all genre lovers looking for an escape. It’s fairly admirable that the filmmakers would attempt something so ambitious for an independent production, and for the most part, they’ve pulled it off. This success is down to a clear passion behind the camera, and the obvious amount of work that went into the execution. It’s a nostalgic tribute to the classic days of Hollywood and it’s one that is sure to entertain.
Perhaps it is a little too long, the green screen can be off-putting at times, and Konkle might not be the most convincing lead, but the production design is far better than it should have been, the dialogue is particularly clever, the shot composition is inventive and the score is very fitting. It’s a fun homage to the days of old, and a respectable piece of independent cinema, even if it isn’t necessarily without its flaws.
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