The Long Game is a neo-noir set in modern-day Los Angeles based on Janet Finch’s short story The Method. Written by Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch and directed by Anderson, the film follows struggling actress Holly (Sekai Abeni), who hasn’t booked much of anything since moving to L.A. Her acting classes aren’t going any better, as the teacher is always on her case; partially because she has too much integrity to sleep with him.
Holly waits tables at an upscale restaurant, Orzo, though the money isn’t great. One day, she waits on Richard (Jackie Earle Haley), and the two have instant chemistry. As the two become closer, Richard convinces Holly to help him con aging actress Mariah McKay (Kathleen Turner). The initial meeting happens when Holly returns Mariah’s beloved puppy. The icon invites the Hollywood hopeful inside, and the two click. Soon, Holly is moving in to become a sort of assistant to Mariah. Richard wants Holly to use her insider information to rob the lady blind but is coy as to why he’s targeting Mariah.
The Long Game opens with a beautifully drawn opening credits sequence; oddly, the title does not show up here. It is awkwardly inserted after Holly’s acting class scene goes slightly awry. The text is white across a black background, a far cry from the stylish opening where it should have been. Those images in that opening bit include rain-drenched streets, the Hollywood sign at sunset, the city at night from the hills, and a woman walking down an alley. Each spectacular bit of art perfectly sets the tone for what’s about to come.
“Richard wants Holly to use her insider information to rob the lady blind…”
The plot does take a while to get going, as Holly’s struggles, Richard’s plan, and Mariah’s life/iconic status all need to be established. But once it gets going, the story becomes involving and mysterious, as all good noirs are. Richard’s endgame is exceptionally fascinating, and one is never quite sure how naive Holly is or isn’t.
Of course, the noir genre lives and dies by its characters. As such, it is paramount to have a capable cast, and The Long Game delivers big time. Haley has been brilliant forever and has never given a bad, poor performance, even in less-than-stellar films. That’s no different here, as he’s charming, enigmatic, and badass. Abeni is fun and sultry as the over-her-head actress. Her voice-over describing how she’s on to Richard’s game early on proves how intelligent the character is. Turner is still just as strong-willed and captivating as ever. The casual way she talks about residuals or how she uses Holly as the help during “their party” never comes across as anything other than authentic.
The Long Game is clever and twisty and will keep viewers guessing until the end. The direction keeps the mystery and tension high, while the screenplay doesn’t give too much away yet still hooks in all watching with what it does reveal. But really, the reason to watch the film is the fabulous cast. Turner is still a radiant star, Haley is as charming as ever, and newcomer Abeni holds her own against both of them.
"…clever and twisty..."