I’m generally an easy watch, which is to say that I’m optimistic at almost all times that what I’m watching, even when bad, will somehow justify itself; that there’s always something somewhere to appreciate. In this case, that optimism was severely challenged. The painful truth about Dorian Dardar’s Just Another Noir is that it is also just another awful movie.
The basic story is that New Orleans private detective Dorian (played by writer/director Dorian Dardar) is hired by Erin (Aspen Steib) to find her missing brother. The case isn’t of any interest to the police, so Dorian is her last, and sadly best, hope. The rest of the film is filled with awkward conversations and horrible acting as Dorian tries to track down the missing brother, and what he may or may not have had to do with a local drug lord and his strip club.
To one extent, the film is faithful to the way people would react to a powerless private detective asking questions they have no interest in answering. Dorian can do little but ask, get insulted or threatened, and then walk away. His overwhelming nonchalance makes it hard to get in his corner, and the mystery he’s unraveling really isn’t all that mysterious or interesting. Why do people suddenly disappear after they get caught up in the seedy, drug underworld? Answer that question, and you probably guessed what happened to Erin’s brother.
On the tech side, the film falls all over itself. The sound mix is painfully crisp at some points, and terribly muffled at others; there is seemingly an abuse of ADR that is hard to ignore or handle. The cinematography is random and erratic, but not in a stylistically good way. Beyond the usage of a couple zooms, I think I even saw that moment when someone tries to move a too tightly-screwed tripod and it causes a sudden jerk when the tripod finally loosens up (someone out there has to know what I’m talking about). There’s even a sequence where logos in the strip club are digitally blurred, but not in a clean or non-distracting way (it looks like the film was suddenly invaded by floating, colored blobs).
Around the moment a chase sequence was in full flight with Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody no 2” accompanying the imagery, followed by a hand-to-hand fight that had more missed connections than your average airline, I began to wonder if what I was watching wasn’t some gonzo joke that I was just now being let in on. Prior to that point, it was just a bad film. After that point, it began flirting with the coveted “so awful it’s actually entertaining now” line. Whether that was always the plan, I can’t say (I suspect not), but I can confidently say that looking at it as a horrendous satire on noir cinema will make the entire experience more enjoyable than, say, expecting a point.
I did enjoy the music by Jak Locke and Kevin Macleod, though. See, I found something to appreciate…
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