Gumshoe is an affectionately nostalgic and amusing tribute to the movie-fiction private-eye genre of yesteryear.
Story’s about a smalltime Liverpool nitery emcee and would-be comedian with a buff’s passion for Bogie and Dashiell Hammett who gets involved in a gun- and drug-running caper. Though often twistful, the tale’s not the thing but its telling, and this, thanks to screenplay and direction, is an almost constantly chucklesome homage to the vintage sleuthing era – as the hero acts out his Mittyish adventure in Bogieland – with more reverence than outright spoof, for a curious and effective amalgam.
Albert Finney is brilliant as the key figure with just the right dose of tightlipped panache or – to bridge a plot gap – soliloquizing by quoting chapter and verse from his favorite authors or, again, tipping his hat to them with a look or a gesture. He’s ably backed by Billie Whitelaw, Frank Finlay, Janice Rule and especially Fulton Mackay as Straker, another would-be eye.