It has been nine long years since Paul Newman first played Lew Harper. The world needed more from him, more of the grit that comes from this particular detective. So yes Paul Newman came back to reprise his role once again. I am most curious about what sort of buzz was created by this. How much anticipation did the audiences of the world have for this film? How Beloved was this character?
I personally hope the expectations were not too high as this film, for me, did not hit some of my favorite notes from the first film. Then again, some of the best things about Harper was how destitute the character felt and they really did not play around with that aspect of the character enough. Anyhow, Harper is back for another ride, this time around he finds himself the center of another lonely Housewife’s mystery. In my review of Harper, I made the note that it was odd seeing the similarities in titles between the Harper films and the Dirty Harry series but the good news is the similarities do not end there both The Drowning Pool, and The Dead Pool are with little exception let downs to the original films
He is a little older, not much wiser, a lot grayer, but Harper still has the same knack for finding trouble. When we last left Lew Harper, he had a pretty rough time of it. Not much has really changed for Harper. In a rather anticlimactic start, we first see Harper this time, he is losing the fight against a seatbelt. Fortunately, this is not some crazy foreshadowing bit (as in he does not die because of a seatbelt) and he finds a way around the seatbelt and makes it to the lonely housewife Iris Devereaux. The mystery is not that exciting on the surface however as the story unfolds the mystery reveals more and more layers.
There are quite a few really great elements in this film. I liked the tone, for the most part, it reminded me of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (although shouldn’t it be the other way around due to the dates of release) where a rather large part of the dialogue is dictated by sarcasm and one-liners with no hint of irony attached. This is unique and I think is possibly one of the only ways to translate detective novels to screen. I liked very much how the mystery seemed to get more complicated simply because Harper was involved I like the idea that our main character is his own worst puzzle piece in a mystery he cannot seem to solve. Something I did not care for, and you may need to read my review of Night Moves to understand my frustration, is the use of Melanie Griffith as an underaged seductress again!! However, I have to say in this film it was much less heavy-handed than in the previously named.
The Film 2/5
Director Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke) and Cinematographer Gordon Willis (The Godfather Part II) worked together to bring this film to life. Which is surprising because I really did not get any elements or the grandeur that both of those films carry in this film, this film feels so small in comparison. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I did not notice the age of the film in this edition. There were scenes which, due to added clarity, had more depth and effect than they may have previously held in the films original glory. The film has some wonderful moments of action and sarcasm alike bringing a unique experience to the screen one that comes across as beautiful as it can in this edition.
Picture Quality 5/5
The hits keep coming as we find that Michael Small was in charge of the music for both this film and Night Moves which only furthers my suspicions of the similarities between these two films. That being said, I cannot honestly complain about the score or music for this film. In fact, there are many scenes that I can recollect that may seem just a little too far-fetched without some music to serve as a companion to further the disbelief. Not to mention that I surprisingly had no audio issues during my viewing of the film. I usually expect some issues from a film of the obscurity to be handled somewhat improperly, due to lack of interest, however, all in all this film has been edited and repackaged well for home viewing.
Audio Quality 5/5
I’m picturing this artwork in a tattered overlooked VHS case on the shelf among hundreds of aged forgotten films and that is about the only place this seems to fit in that I can imagine. That may seem a little heavy-handed, but the only place I can picture the artwork is on the cover of the book it is based on, which for all intents and purposes is a dime store detective novel (if for no other reason than to make my metaphor make sense). That being said the packaging is solid and lasted for a couple of weeks being moved from one location to another to yet another, with no signs of harm or stress. Warner Archives does a great job of re-purposing these films into new editions without taking them too far, however, I simply wish they would go one step further with most. Something more than just an amaray case, outdated artwork, and artwork on the disc (points for this) would simply mean all the difference between edition and special edition.
The Packaging 2/5
However bitter I may seem I do not expect Warner Archives to go out and film new features for each release, they are not Criterion, and do not release as infrequently as Shout Select so I completely understand that point from a very logical and rational point of view. On the other hand. I WANT MORE!! This time around they actually did give us two items (again Not bitter). The first is a featurette from way back when donned a “Vintage Featurette” entitled Harper Days are Here Again a promotional featurette undoubtedly designed to be an advert to promote the film. The other as most would have guessed ins the Theatrical Trailer.
Special Features 2/5
There is a lot of this film that I can see in the films I hold dear now, (mostly Shane Black films) but that means a lot to me knowing that sarcasm and one liners have been something audiences have craved for a long time now. However ironic the use of them are now they were meant more seriously then I’m sure. However there is a lot about this film that simply doesn’t work for me. I don’t appreciate the fourteen year old seductress (their word not mine). I don’t appreciate the shallow plot that only seems deep because it takes the full 108 minutes to solve. I feel as if the Harper character had such opportunity and it may have been wasted on its time. Paul Newman undoubtedly plays the role the best the pages allow and I have no doubt that any other actor would have tanked this film even lower for me. If you loved the first one you will simply like this one and crave more Harper and Newman cool at the end. You can purchase this film HERE.
Overall 2.5/5 – An Unnecessary Sequel