Dennis Hauck directs John Hawkes, Crystal Reed and Dichen Lachman in this romantic neo-noir where a private detective looks for a missing girl he has history with around an L.A. filled with beautiful, sad women.
The trick, the hook, to Too Late is that it is just five scenes told out of sequence, each a long (seemingly unbroken) take where a little more of the mystery is clarified but more importantly the characters shift from being stock genre creations to something deeper. The opposite of Mystic River, then! In fact it would easy to be put off by the first and last five minutes. We meet a couple of rote drug dealers, straight out of the copycat Tarantino handbook. The kinda weak characters and rip-off dialogue that blighted the 1990s indie crime thriller in QT’s successful wake. Once they move out of focus though you forget them and even the formal trick of the movie. It is almost as the creative here is acknowledging on first glance that to be co-existing in the same hyper-aware, self-reflective City of Angels setting as Pulp Fiction at least needs referencing. “Here’s two mopes from Reindeer Games or The Last Days of Frankie the Fly… now let me do what I do that isn’t that or even what Quentin does!” What plays out is much richer. We essentially watch Hawke’s crumpled detective (he’s brilliant here as always) seduce a different beautiful woman in a little one act play. Times five. The dialogue has that hard boiled rat-a-tat poetry of a Chandler novel or a Bogart movie. The women seem embolden by having such richly written, deftly subtle parts. Hauck likes a certain type of actress… legs, rubbing up against middle aged, flinty, happy to have a camera follow their arse for endless periods. He gives these certain types the roles of their lives though. Their encounters with Hawkes dogged, sarcastic PI are crackling with attraction, tinged with loneliness and brutal in their witty power plays. It makes for a very stylish, gripping, gorgeous throwback of a mystery. Well worth tracking down. An underrated gem.