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Hammett

R.G. Armstrong , Peter Boyle , Wim Wenders    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Homage to Forties Murder Mysteries Nov. 10 2005
By David Baldwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
It's a real shame that Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope studios went belly up. They may not have produced anything that would qualify as classic but "Hammett" is an example of the kind of care and quality in films that Zoetrope strove for. Zoetrope films are an example of the indie spirit with big budgets that ultimately bankrupted Coppola. The central storyline of "Hammett" about white slavery and blackmail in thirties San Francisco is intriguing. I won't say that this film is the equivalant of another homage to the Hammett-Chandler style, "Chinatown", but I wouldn't be remiss to say that both films would make a terrific double-bill. "Hammett" has style to burn with fantastic cinematography but the real star is art director Dean Tavoularis' jaw dropping art direction. It is a crime that Tavoularis wasn't nominated for an Oscar for his work here. Frederic Forrest is outstanding as the boozing but relentless Dashiell Hammett who'll get to the bottom of the film's labyrinthian mystery at the cost of life and limb. Great supporting cast that includes Peter Boyle, veterans R.G. Armstrong and Richard Bradford, and old pros Sylvia Sidney, Elisha Cook, and Hank Worden. David Lynch fans should note the presence of Jack Nance("Eraserhead"). Marilu Henner, on the other hand, won't make you forget her work as Elaine Nardo on TV's "Taxi".
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Film Noir from American Zoetrope... Jan. 3 2004
By Albert M. Bozzo - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Excellent story line and acting. Forrest is a very credible Hammett. The seemless, innovative scene transitions are worth the price of the tape all by themselves! This title needs to be on DVD!!!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the hundred best films ever made. May 30 2008
By Robert Beveridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Hammett (Wim Wenders, 1982)

Wim Wenders directs Frederic Forrest in a fictionalized biopic about Dashiell Hammett. What can possibly go wrong? Add in a number of other character actors equally as good as Forrest (including Elisha Cook, Jr.-- yeah, the guy who was in The Maltese Falcon as the gunsel) and a script by the late Ross Thomas, who wrote a pretty mean crime novel himself, and you're pretty much destined for cinema gold. Needless to say, the public ignored it-- the film grossed a total of forty-two thousand dollars in the theaters. In the intervening twenty-six years, the film has been criminally neglected, held up as a paragon of cinema virtue by a handful (at best) of fanatics, including myself and megacritic Jonathan Rosenbaum (who considers Hammett Wenders' most underrated film; I'd have to say that's kind of a gimme), who are, in this case at least, profoundly ignored. Well, it's time that that stops, and Hammett is brought back to the place where it belongs, as one of the best films ever made.

No one except Wim Wenders, Francis Ford Coppola, and (one assumes) a few selected folks at Zoetrope has ever actually seen Hammett. Once Zoetrope got a copy of it, they recut the film (Wenders is on record as saying the released version is very little like the film he actually shot) to Coppola's standards. That's what got released, and that's what we've all seen. Well, the eighteen or so of us who've seen it, anyway. And I have to say, with as much salt as necessary given that, say, the director's cut of Apocalypse Now is godawful compared to the original, that if Wenders is correct and Coppola basically destroyed the movie, then my god, what a masterpiece it must have been, because Coppola's cut is still just as much a spectacular screwball comedy/crime story now that I'm watching it in 2008 as it was when I first saw it in 1983 (on HBO, I think). I have a lot more film-watching experience thanks to the intervening fifteen years, and I'm relatively certain it's not just a case of nostalgia; this is a really, really great film that's just been profoundly ignored by, well, everyone. Frederic Forrest, who's long been one of America's finest character actors, plays Dashiell Hammett, who should put one in mind of Hammett's more famous characters. Peter Bole is his old pal Jimmy Ryan, who comes to him with a vague, and somewhat incomplete, tale of a missing Chinese prostitute, Crystal Ling (Lydia Lei), and asks Hammett to help him find her. We get the usual "I'm retired from detective work, blah blah blah" speech before the two head out, and quickly find that tracking down Crystal Ling will step on pretty much everyone's toes. Before long Hammett and Ryan get separated, and now it's personal, since Ryan seems to have disappeared, and Hammett is left with only the help of his gorgeous neighbor Kit (Marilu Henner), a schoolteacher who knows nothing at all about detective work, and an ex-yippie cabbie (Cook Jr.).

It would, of course, be an abomination to compare Wenders' Hammett to Huston's The Maltese Falcon, but indulge me as I draw the wrath of the film gods, for Wenders' movie has all the spit and crackle of Huston's, but without Huston's meddling with the characters (and the famously blown ending). The usually laconic Forrest hams it up in true wiseguy style, while Peter Boyle, whom I don't think I've ever seen play a tough guy before, absolutely owns his role. I could just keep on going down the list of impressive performances (David Patrick Kelly, Henner, Jack Nance, Lei, Cook Jr., Roy Kinnear, cameos from Samuel Fuller and Hank Worden, and oh so much more), or talk about Wenders' directorial style, which always shines through in a Wenders film, or the awesome script, or the many, many in-jokes to both Hammett's writing and the various film adaptations of it (and a final answer to the question of the double-meaning of "gunsel"), or any of the other things that make this movie an absolute delight to watch. But I won't, because I've already talked too much when you should be going out, right now, and renting the recent and long, long overdue DVD release of this brilliant, brilliant movie. **** 
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great style Feb. 12 2006
By S. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This 1980's attempt to recreate the world of film noir might be a little thin on story or substance, but worth its weight in style. Outstanding sets and atmosphere, along with well paced direction and smooth transition keep the film from getting too trite. It's no 'Murder My Sweet' or 'Double Indemnity' but well worth seeing anyway.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Find March 16 2007
By John D. Steyers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Despite my general taste for the private detective genre, this film had escaped my notice for a number of years. I was intrigued enough by its entry in Leonard Malten's ongoing book to rent it. I consider it a real find. I was very happy to rediscover it on DVD. It works on more than one level simultaneously. Most basically, it is a good "private eye" story in and of itself. Beyond that, its references to the genre in general, the period, and even the life and character of Dashiell Hammet himself, as well as the fact that it is not-quite-literal about any of the above, make for a very pleasing depth and richness of story texture which enhances the experience. The acting is very good across the board, particularly that of Peter Boyle as Hammett's mentor. As if all this weren't enough, Wenders's visual style is appropriate and very effective. There is an artificiality about the design, lighting and camera work which embodies to a great extent the pastiche element underlying the story. Many, if not most shots are consciously (I feel sure) made to resemble the cover art of early paperback editions of "private eye" fiction. This element enhances the pastiche and enriches the immediate experience as well as creating a nuanced world which refers interestingly to a specific time and place (San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1920's)without pretending to be strictly historical or naturalistic. This film is great entertainment.
ARRAY(0xb372181c)

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