The Private Eye Featured, Reviews Film Threat

Apr 18, 2024

Are Matt Rife’s good looks and comedic charm enough to carry a 1-hour, 55-minute noir film? Director Jack Cook’s The Private Eye, written by Cook, Hope Ayiyi, and Rosalinda Books, attempts to blend Memento, Out of the Past, and The Notebook. Is it a seamless mixture, or are we left with a convoluted gumshoe story that doesn’t quite stick?
Mort Madison (Matt Rife) is a down-on-his-luck private eye who spends his days drinking and smoking without many knocks on his door asking for his assistance. Then, one day, a mysterious woman named Michelle (Clare Grant) hires Mort to follow and scare off her boyfriend, David (Elliot). During the case, Mort’s past and present collide as he navigates his strange connection to Michelle, his own identity, and how far he will go for love.

“…a mysterious woman named Michelle hires Mort to follow and scare off her boyfriend…”
The Private Eye struggles to decide what tone to go for and what story it’s trying to tell. It varies from a noir spoof to psychological drama, never following through on either attempt. Of course, once the twist occurs, the narrative tries its best to justify the runaround that most of the movie puts its audience through to throw them off the scent. Sadly, this feels more like wasted time. This would’ve benefitted from a shorter runtime, with many scenes being unnecessarily too long. It spends way too much time watching Mort do nothing remotely related to the case instead of building his character. Due to these lengthy deviations, the characters, their actions, and what they all mean to each other fall apart.
Rife does a decent job but feels miscast, never entirely pulling off the private dick persona. Rife’s looks and mannerisms seem too young and ultimately too detached from who he is revealed to be in the end. It feels similar to how Jennifer Lawrence was teased for constantly being cast in roles that were much older than her actual age. However, Erik Griffin’s cameo as a taxi driver is easily the film’s highlight and made me laugh out loud.
In thinking back on The Private Eye, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet comes to mind: after an hour, you start to worry because you realize you have no clue what’s going on. Once the reveal occurs in the third act, it’s so overly complicated that it leaves you thinking one of two things. Either you just watched something brilliantly orchestrated that requires repeat viewings or just experienced a flashy concept that can’t justify its existence. I look forward to seeing what else Rife has to offer in the future, but you can pass on this one.

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