Hammett (1982)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Period Film, Post-Noir (Modern Noir)  |   Release Date - May 1, 1982 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Michael Costello

Wim Wenders' film version of Joe Gores's novel, a conflation of elements of the writer's life with episodes from his work, is a fascinatingly stylized artifact which will likely be of more interest to the director's fans than Hammett's. More a meditation on the detective genre than an actual detective film, it bends Gores's novel to the deliberate pacing and meandering plotting of Wenders' characteristic theme of perennial wanderjahre. The casting of an actor with a persona as vulnerable as Frederic Forrest to play the laconic, hard-nosed Hammett of reality is just one of many unusual choices that take one into the realm of cult film and Marilu Henner, Forrest's wife of the time, also seems out of place here. But the rest of the cast, which includes veterans of Hollywood's golden age like Sylvia Sidney, Elisha Cook Jr., and Royal Dano, acquit themselves well. Philip Lathrop, a specialist in noir and crime films, and the 79-year-old Joseph Biroc, whose last feature this was, combine their talents in the film's stunningly dream-like visual texture.