One of the nice things about Trouble Is My Business is that it makes no bones about exactly what it is. Clearly, the film is a love letter to the movies of yesteryear—specifically, those in the film noir style.
Having said that, it is an homage that occasionally veers toward parody—with apparent intention. With a kind of Coen brothers-style gleam-in-the-eye nod toward the movie’s precursors.
To sum up briefly, the story is told in flashback (natch!) by private eye Roland Drake (played in suitable down-and-out fashion by director and co-screenwriter Tom Konkle), your typical wisecracking detective who is 30 days from being evicted from his office. He is no doubt pondering the wicked ways of landlords and fate when trouble sashays into said office in the form of a dark-haired beauty, Katherine Montemar. She wants to hire Drake to find her father (I think—honestly, it doesn’t matter). After an exchange of snappy patter—including the line “I won’t play the fool for anyone” (really!)—the two waste no time getting to the business of swapping spit and other bodily fluids.
Next thing we know, Drake wakes up in bed alone with bloodstains on his sheets. We learn that Katherine has disappeared when Drake’s ex-partner Lew MacDonald (played smarmily by David Beeler) comes poking around. Then, guess who shows up at Drake’s office with a gun in her hand and an attitude? None other than Katherine’s blonde sister, Jennifer (played gorgeously by co-screenwriter Brittney Powell). And she wants to find Katherine.
Or maybe what she’s really after is the Orlov (or is it Orloff?) diamond? Or could she be after the little black book that Nadia kept? (Nadia is … never mind. Spoilers!)
The sly references to classic films noir are numerous. The diamond is described to Drake with the same reverence given to the Black Bird in The Maltese Falcon. Or is the Black Book this movie’s version of the Black Bird? Does it matter? They’re all MacGuffins, right?
The characters—which include the dysfunctional Montemar clan (along with a butler who defies stereotype or, frankly, description) and an ungodly mass of corrupt law enforcement officials—could easily have become caricatures, were it not for the deftly written dialogue and exemplary acting.
There was more than one line I enjoyed, but here are a couple that made me smile:
Drake: “Dumb’s the one thing that doesn’t look good on you.”
Drake: “I wish.”
Add to this the careful attention to details of the period, including costumes, set decoration, and music—the last of which blends perfectly with the shadows and angles of the movie’s noir cinematography.
And, of course, the story is told in flashback, with flashbacks and dream sequences within the flashback. So, true to the form, the plot is Mulholland-Drive-twisty.
Finally, this is the kind of movie that only an indie production could pull off these days. (The big studios are too busy cranking out superhero blockbusters or endless iterations of the Star Wars franchise.) And the production values are excellent.
If you enjoy film noir or neo-noir (as I think this movie can be categorized), I recommend you check this one out. For me, it was the stuff that dreams are made of. 🙂
Here’s the trailer:
For a list of places to see it, check out the official website!