CAPSULE: Arizona-based second-time writer/director Travis Mills gives us a nifty little film noir thriller, economically shot but with good writing. A reporter quits his job to write a book on the real business of being a private detective in the 21st century. On the way he meets a legendary private detective and falls for the detective's mistress. It overcomes its meager budget and is sufficiently well-written to give the viewer that "what the heck is going on" feeling. In the end the solution is genuinely surprising. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Scott Miller (played by Travis Mills) is a pretty good reporter who is stuck in a dead-end position at his paper. In his spare time he interviews real-life private detectives and writes a book about their business. One detective tells him about another who is considered to be the real deal, John D (Rob Edwards), a genuine hard-boiled PI. Sadly this real deal is anything but the stuff of an exciting book. He describes his job as, "I sit. I watch. I listen. It's boring." At least one thing is not boring about John D. He has a girl friend Chris (Cara Nicole) who is sexy, makes porno films, and is dangerous to know. After a one-night-stand with Chris, Miller's life becomes a lot like something out of a detective novel. But is he the detective or the next victim? Or both?
Having one person write, direct, and take the lead role is frequently a bad idea. But THE DETECTIVE'S LOVER has a brisk, polished look and feel. And the setting sets off the story. One fault might be that Mills will take a wordless sequence, let it run long, and show it with just jazz music playing over it. You either are into jazz music or you feel like you have been put on hold on the telephone. The film is brief as it is, 89 minutes, and did not need padding.
THE DETECTIVE'S LOVER is filmed in crisp black and white, giving it a look that probably belies a small budget. Mills takes his cameras to the streets of Arizona and while the setting is not Los Angeles in the 1940s, his visual sense keeps the view of interest while still filming mostly close to his home. It may not have a lot of the multicultural feel I expected of Phoenix. But some of the references, like a mention of the sheriff's posse, should reassure the locals that they are watching a gen-u-ine Phoenix film. Keeping that budget low is a cast and crew of people you probably have not seen or heard of before. That probably includes Mills whose only previous feature (again writing, directing, and starring) was 2011's A BIG SOMETHING. But here the story is what is most important and THE DETECTIVE'S LOVER is surprisingly engaging. In the end there is a little that is not quite explained. There is just enough that is not spelled out to give the viewer something to talk about on the drive home.
For someone just starting out--you can judge Mills' age because there he is on the screen--Mills does a pretty good job of pulling a film together and carrying it. I will be interested to see how his career continues. I rate THE DETECTIVE'S LOVER a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. THE DETECTIVE'S LOVER will show theatrically in Arizona and elsewhere it will be available for download.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2338303/
Mark R. Leeper email@example.com Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper