Face Down

As soon as an attractive blonde walks into down-on-his-luck private eye Bob Signorelli's office, anybody who's ever seen a film noir --- even one this brightly lit --- will know that things are going to be a lot more complicated than they first seem in "Face Down." While writer-director Thom Eberhardt ("Honey, I Blew Up the Kid," "Night of the Comet") doesn't really add anything to the genre, he honors its conventions with sufficient flair to make this a better-than-average TV movie. Dishonored by the New York City police department after an assignment backfires, Signorelli (Joe Mantegna) partners with Herb Aames (J.K. Simmons), who turns out to be the Lew Archer to Signorelli's Sam Spade. Meredith (Merre) Lake (Kelli Maroney) suspects she's being followed by a series of largely nondescript cars, and that the apartment has been broken into, though there's no supporting evidence. She asks Signorelli to investigate. Concurrently, longtime Signorelli nemesis NYPD Lt. Coop Cooper (Peter Riegert) is investigating the murder of a prominent Mafia attorney. What are the odds that Coop and Signorelli will soon meet on their seemingly unrelated cases?

With:
Cast: Joe Mantegna, Peter Riegert, Kelli Maroney, Cameron Thor, Adam Ant, J.K. Simmons, Shannon Lawson, Kent Staines, Diana Reis, Eugene A. Clark, Richard Sali, Gary McMillan, Dwight Bacquie, James Mainprize, Steve Cumyn, Alex Karzis, Phillip Jarrett, Paul-Emile Frappier, Darlene Mignacco, Avery Saltzman, Trish Lindstrom, Alan Peterson, Shane Daly, Mark Lutz, Kirsten Johnson, Chris Benson, Michael McMurtry, Tony Meyler, Christopher Crumb, Becky Cheng, Scott Wickware, Allan Aarons, Beatriz Pizano, David Mason, Michael Kazarian, Andrew Moodie, Theadora Farray.

Sure enough, they do, and the action seems to center on a flashy art gallery owned by oily Derek Fry (Adam Ant) and a particularly sleazy porn operation whose featured series is something called “First Time Foxes.” “Boogie Nights” this isn’t.

Before it’s all over, several corpses have accumulated, Merre has demonstrated that she’s not self-conscious about nudity, and there’s an action-packed climax in a subway station.

Most of the top-billed actors don’t seem to be aiming for Emmys with their performances, though Maroney sparkles in several scenes and Shannon Lawson’s Emily Jones proves as valuable an assistant as Spade’s Effie Perrine or Mickey Spillane’s Velda.

Though the characters and situations are classic, Eberhardt comes through with some good lines and amusing situations, like when the bad guy stops in the middle of a chase to drop a few coins into a blind subway stop busker’s tin cup.

Another plus is score by Gunther Schuller and jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano.

Overall look, all bright and shiny, is more TV than feature, which may be pic’s main shortcoming, such as it is. Title, “Face Down,” is from the we-had-to-call-it-something bin.

Face Down

Sat. (15),9-10:50 p.m., Movie Channel

Production: Filmed in Toronto by Thom Eberhardt/Roni Weisberg Prods. in association with Hallmark Entertainment and Showtime. Producer, Roni Weisberg; director, writer, Thom Eberhardt;

Crew: camera, John Holosko; editor, Carl Graham; production designer, Anthony Greco; art director, Rob Gray; sound, Stuart French; music, Gunther Schuller, Joe Lovano; casting, Beth Klein.

Cast: Cast: Joe Mantegna, Peter Riegert, Kelli Maroney, Cameron Thor, Adam Ant, J.K. Simmons, Shannon Lawson, Kent Staines, Diana Reis, Eugene A. Clark, Richard Sali, Gary McMillan, Dwight Bacquie, James Mainprize, Steve Cumyn, Alex Karzis, Phillip Jarrett, Paul-Emile Frappier, Darlene Mignacco, Avery Saltzman, Trish Lindstrom, Alan Peterson, Shane Daly, Mark Lutz, Kirsten Johnson, Chris Benson, Michael McMurtry, Tony Meyler, Christopher Crumb, Becky Cheng, Scott Wickware, Allan Aarons, Beatriz Pizano, David Mason, Michael Kazarian, Andrew Moodie, Theadora Farray.

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