Directed by David Lynch
Written by Charlie Kaufman
Harvey Black: Christopher Walken
Selma Del Var: Virginia Madsen
Eddie 'O Connor: Mark Wahlberg
Donovan: Michael Clarke Duncan
Syms: Joel Grey
Murphy: James Caan
Alma: Rosario Dawson
The Alleyway Dame: Marley Shelton
Tommy Slattery: Alec Baldwin
Sgt. Spade: Gene Hackman
Tagline: "Harvey Black is a detective. Like in the movies"
Synopsis: Harvey Black was a nice guy. People always told Harvey Black that. And he believed it. He enjoyed his little rut. At least, that's what he told himself.
But he was lying. Sometimes he'd peek over his cubicle wall just to see if there was something new out there. Because he was bored. Oh-so bored.
And what every bored guy needs is a hobby, right? So Harvey Black got into detectives in a big way. He'd rent old noir movies and stay up all night watching them. And he'd sigh. The click-click-clicking of his keyboard always seemed like a lullaby in contrast to the gunshots and footsteps he'd hear in the movies. And the fluorescent lighting and off-white walls of his office always sharply contrasted the deep blacks, soft grays, and striking crimsons of blood that he began to see in his dreams. More than anything, Harvey wanted to be a detective.
So imagine his surprise when one day, walking to the bus, he saw a woman being attacked in a dark alley. His heroic instincts take over, and he rushes in, only to be knocked out immediately by the butt of a gun.
When Harvey Black wakes up in that alley that smelled of the sleazy dealings of years past, all he sees are deep blacks, soft grays, and a striking crimson pool of blood a couple feet away.
And he realizes that in this world, he ain't plain old Harvey Black…He's Harvey Black, Private Eye.
Right away, he begins nosing around about the dame he saw bein' sent to serenade St. Peter by those three mooks, but ends up with nada. Downer than a sick puppy, he sees another case – a routine stolen-jewels deal, with a sultry blonde who is anything but. Looking for her to take a shine to him, he gives it a shot, only to find that there's a lot more to the case than it seems at first glance. There's a history behind the blonde's stolen jewels, and it leaves a trail of blood right back to that poor dame in the alleyway.
He's also got a rival on his trail, namely one Eddie 'O Connor, a sleazeball of a police detective with more on his mind than the case. The corrupt police chief is lookin' to take him out clean and fast. He's also got three goons who're literally the definition of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" there around every corner gunning for him. And the guy who sent them has a history of shady dealings that connect directly to the case.
Now Harvey Black has to make it up as he goes along, learning that there's a lot more to being a detective than he reckoned, right smack-dab in the middle of an Eagle Scout knot of a case.
Just like in the movies.
What the Press would say:
The noir has always been an admired form of art, whether in book, movie, or anything else form. But it has staggered in recent years and lost popularity. "Harvey Black." (yes, with the period), the new film from surrealistic director David Lynch and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, hopes to revive it by simultaneously spoofing and revering the format. Did they do a good job? Well…yes.
The first 20 minutes of the movie set up the story of a boring man named Harvey Black who dreams of being a noir detective. These scenes are starkly directed, the scenes dominated by off-white sand soft hums that are the very surroundings driving Harvey mad. The real story starts when poor Harvey is knocked cold while trying to save a pretty woman (played fleetlingly by a tragic Marley Shelton) and wakes up in a world of noir. This is where Lynch's signature surrealism comes in. Shadows stick out more than their actual human projectors: blood paints the streets a sickly red, and the entire world is rendered in a foreboding black-and-gray, simplistic style that calls to mind both classics like "Casablanca" and recent fare like "Sin City". It's simply beautiful, and suits the film well.
The film's priority seems not so much to spoof a noir, but to replicate it. Kaufman's dialogue is classic noir; rough-and-tumble, sharp-witted lines oozing out of the characters' mouths like drool. The actors themselves play a huge part in recreating the film noir. Virginia Madsen plays Selma Del Var, a dame who seems stereotypical at first but slowly reveals to the audience inner secrets and feelings. She's simply mind-blowing. Christopher Walken, as the titular character, is simply amazing. His famous voice is perfect for the noir, and yet he has never gotten the chance to be in one. He inhabits the role of the detective perfectly, but he really shines when he is given the chance to act like a real human; an earnest, slightly dumb man who is thrust into a world he is not suited for. I'd definitely expect him to get a lot of attention for such an archetypical role.
The supporting players are also given a chance to shine. Rosario Dawson as a hooker-with-a-heart of gold plays her role to a T, simultaneously being sleazy and sympathetic. Gene Hackman plays a gruff police sergeant directly at odds with Harvey very well, this role serving as sort of a comeback for him after a string of movies where he played against type. As 3 goons who are literally blind, deaf, and mute, Joel Grey, Michael Clarke Duncan, and James Caan respectively add an interesting twist to the story and a bit of comedic relief. Mark Wahlberg's role as Harvey's sleazy rival seems to be tailor made for him, as he slinks throughout the film cigarette-in-mouth, waxing philosophical in a wolflike growl. The real high point of the ensemble, though, is Alec Baldwin, as Slattery, a slimeball crime boss out to get Harvey. At first we only see cigar smoke emanating from a faint shadow of a man, but as we progress through the film, we get even closer to his gravelly voice. His words slipping out of the corner of his mouth lazily as he orders murders and robberies like Chinese food, we love to hate him and hate to love him. Baldwin is quite possibly one of the best movie villains in recent memory.
With a pitch-perfect replication of a classic noir, a unique art style, great performances, and a twist ending that will leave you breathless, "Harvey Black." is quite simply amazing. No, it's not the best film ever, and it's not even the best noir ever. But it's a thought-provoking, well-put-together, and entertaining film. And really, that's all we could ask. Sure, it's "different". But even the Academy might go for something new this February. Don't be surprised. I certainly wouldn't.
For Your Consideration:
Best Picture – AMPAS
Best Picture (Drama) – HFPA
Best Ensemble – SAG
Best Director – David Lynch
Best Actor – Christopher Walken
Best Actress – Virginia Madsen
Best Supporting Actor – Alec Baldwin
Best Supporting Actor – Mark Wahlberg
Best Supporting Actress – Rosario Dawson
Best Original Screenplay – Charlie Kaufman