If you’re looking for a bit of fifties-themed noir escapism, have I got a movie for you or what? I think you can already smell the alcohol and cigarette smoke in the air. Mulholland Falls is an ambitious neo-noir murder mystery well worth your time. We will be following a tough LA detective Max Hoover as he’s trying to find the killer of a beautiful woman. His determination will lead him to some pretty strange and dangerous places. You can see they were going for a sprawling story designed to keep the viewer guessing. Overly complex, it ultimately falls under its own weight.
However, by the time that happens you already spent a good 80 minutes trying to figure out who the killer is and what’s going on here. The plot reminds me a bit of The Nice Guys mixed with The Big Bang. Nick Nolte was the perfect choice for the lead role with his gravelly voice and imposing screen presence. And the rest of the cast was excellent as well. We’ve got Melanie Griffith as his wife, with Chazz Palminteri and Michael Madsen playing the roles of Max’s partners. Of course, Jennifer Connelly stole the show here as the reverse femme fatale appearing nude and completely ravishing. I have to admit that I would be smitten by a broad like that.
Too bad most of her scenes are in black in white. Also, if she had a twin sister enquiring about her death that would be something. There are a few more familiar names in the supporting cast but I want to leave them for you to discover. You have to admit that for a nineties thriller you never heard this is one hell of a cast. And the director is Lee Tamahori, making his American debut after the huge success of Once Were Warriors. His next movie, The Edge, was also quite good starring Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, and one giant bear.
After they’ve thrown out the latest criminal who tried to make a movie in their city, LA’s four toughest cop are called to a murder scene. A beautiful young woman was found dead in the middle of nowhere. The lead detective, Max Hoover, knows this is going to be a tough case. But Max is a tough cop who will stop at nothing until he finds the killer. And he gets his first clue when he receives a short film featuring the poor woman. A film that will raise more questions than answers. All of them will be leading back to Allison Pond who seems to found herself involved in something really dangerous.
Ahhh yes, the age-old tale of wealthy old white man trying to get away with murder. Literally with murder. Mulholland Falls tries to be different by adding the whole government conspiracy subplot but the main story is quite familiar. This is both a good and a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Tamahori deals with emotional scenes excellently making them feel intense, realistic and not melodramatic. The scene when Max’s wife confronts him in the basement is great example of this. Too bad a lot of character development had to go away to make way for that convoluted story.
Did you know that these four tough detectives are actually real? They were called The Hat Squad and their tactics were often brutal and illegal. Nolte would reprise his role as one of the members of this squad in the 2013 movie Gangster Squad. Completely overshadowed by L.A. Confidential which came out just a year later, Mulholland Falls is a good movie. The story is engaging and full of mystery while the atmosphere is juicy with slight over-the-top tendencies. And just to be perfectly clear, it’s not based on true events. So, if you’re looking for a bit of old school noir fun, it’s a great choice.
Director: Lee Tamahori
Writers: Peter Dexter, Floyd Mutrux
Cast: Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Jennifer Connelly, Chazz Palminteri, Treat Williams, John Malkovich
Fun Facts: The car Nick Nolte playing Max Hoover in the movie Mulholland Falls drives is a 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible.