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New To DVD - OUT OF BLUE

out of blue review
An ex-alcoholic veteran detective begins to piece together her own past while investigating the murder of a scientist.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Carol Morley

Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Jacki Weaver, Mamie Gummer, James Caan, Toby Jones, Jonathan Majors, Devyn A. Tyler


out of blue dvd

As with this year's other female led cop drama, Karyn Kusama's Destroyer, Carol Morley's Out of Blue proves once again that outdated genre tropes don't become any fresher by simply transferring them from their traditional male protagonists to female characters.

Also much like Kusama's film, Morley's features a hardened female detective, Patricia Clarkson's Mike Hoolihan, investigating a murder that somehow seems connected with her own past.

out of blue review


Hoolihan is charged with investigating the death of New Orleans scientist and socialite Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer), found with her face shot off at an observatory. The two main suspects are observatory manager Ian Strammi (Toby Jones) and Jennifer's boyfriend, college lecturer Duncan Reynolds (Jonathan Majors), but Hoolihan begins to suspect the dead woman's father, New Orleans gentry member Colonel Tom Rockwell (James Caan), may have something to do with his daughter's demise.

Out of Blue is adapted from Martin Amis's novel 'Night Train', a satire of police procedurals, but Morley dulls the satire to such an extent that rather than poking fun at the detective movie, it merely resembles a clichΓ© ridden example of the genre. Hoolihan is that ultimate cop movie stereotype, the alcoholic maverick, and the twist here is that her drinking has erased all memories of her life before joining the police academy. As the plot progresses, it becomes apparent that Hoolihan has a personal connection to the case she's investigating, if only she could recall her missing memories. But when the revelation is eventually made in Out of Blue's laughable climax, you'll find yourself wondering why Hoolihan didn't simply enter her name into Google.

out of blue review


This is but one of many departures from the source novel, most of which play as misjudged and often cringeworthy nods to other films. There's a subplot involving a local TV news reporter that resolves itself in the same manner as a recent Nicholas Sparks adaptation, and elsewhere Morley inserts thudding allusions to David Lynch (lights keep flickering in Hoolihan's presence and Jennifer is seen crooning in neon light ala Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet, but with none of Rossellini's dangerous seductive charm) and Orson Welles (one of the clues in Hoolihan's fractured memory is a snowglobe; ugh!).

The setting of New Orleans is itself something of a detective movie clichΓ©, but Morley fails to exploit the visual appeal of what is arguably America's most aesthetically pleasing city. Visually, Out of Blue often falls somewhere between a Korean soap opera and an '80s porn, with sets that look so fragile you worry what might happen if an actor leans against a wall. The lighting is garish and the film suffers from ugly shot compositions (DP Conrad W. Hall's father, the late, great Conrad Hall must be turning in his grave). The usually reliable Clint Mansell provides a score that sounds like it was knocked off in a couple of hours with a cheap keyboard. If all this is done on purpose to evoke artifice, well I guess it works, but with Clarkson and her fellow cast members playing it so straight, any parodic elements are lost, as though Morley informed her crew she was making a satire but failed to clue in her cast.

out of blue review


Clarkson is one of our most under-appreciated stars, so it's nice to see her get a lead role. But even an actress as watchable as Clarkson can't save this lifeless science experiment gone wrong, and it doesn't help that her character overlooks obvious details in her investigation. The amount of time Clarkson spends looking confounded while male characters explain simple scientific theories to her - not to mention how she finally puts two and two together regarding her case, thanks to an offhand comment by a male colleague - will have many female viewers gritting their teeth.

Out of Blue would have been a lot shorter had Clarkson's Hoolihan conducted a simple google search. If you're thinking of seeing Morley's film, you might want to google it yourself so you know what you're getting into.

Out of Blue comes to UK DVD/blu-ray September 2nd.


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