Private investigator Mike Case (Les Mahoney) has been hired by Victoria Billows (Devai Pearce) to find her missing husband, Lennie (Scott Ganyo). Much to the chagrin of his ex-partner, detective Lorena (Debra Mayer), who is also investigating the disappearance, Case sets out to find Lennie, following the trail down one promising dead-end after another.
Justin Baird’s Mike Case In: The Big Kiss Off tackles a common noir story and spins familiar elements into new terrain. The typical set-ups are all there, the distraught woman visiting the private investigator in his office, looking for help in finding her missing husband, only here Mike Case works out of his car. There’s the trusty assistant with tech skills that really does most of the work, in this case informant Bootsie (Atoy Wilson). Rival detective or private investigator on the case? Check, only here that rival is also a long-suffering former (and maybe current) love of Mike’s.
There’s more, but for all the typical noir elements the film does pile in, the main element of a compelling mystery is what is truly missing. It is entertaining as is, of course, to see how the familiar is tackled and often mocked, but finding the missing Lennie lacks any real intrigue or stakes. Even when Case gets that noir-friendly beat down, it’s a pleasant moment due to the convivial nature of the tough punching him, therefore no fear or suspense that anything could really happen to Case. This all leads to what might be the ultimate spin: a mystery story without an interesting mystery.
But again, the film is entertaining along the way, and this is definitely an “all about the journey not the destination” type of film, because the resolution leaves much to be desired. All the other elements do work, however, and Les Mahoney as Mike Case makes a convincing down-on-his-luck private investigator. Something about the jaw-line, rugged face and the hat sells the character long before the performance attempts to do the same. Simply, if Mahoney had nothing else, he has the look necessary to convince.
Lucky for us, he can act too, and is charming overall in the role of under-appreciated but strangely over-sexed Mike Case. Dale Shane’s Vinnie was also particularly memorable in his role as the soft-spoken tough guy who apologizes for every punch he has to throw. Erica Ocampo’s Penny likewise strikes a memorable pose as the later-introduced femme fatale.
In the end, if you like noir mysteries, or are familiar with all the elements that go into them, you’ll find much to delight in how Mike Case In: The Big Kiss Off plays with the form. If you actually want a compelling noir tale with a solid mystery, however, I think this one comes up short. Basically what I’m saying is, as a satire of noir, invoking the tone but playing with everything else, it’s fun but not great. As an actual noir mystery, it leaves much to be desired.
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