MARLOWE. ABC / Touchstone, TV Movie/pilot, 2007. Jason O’Mara (Philip Marlowe), Adam Goldberg, Clayton Rohner, Jamie Ray Newman, Amanda Righetti, Lisa LoCicero, Marcus A. Ferraz. Teleplay by Greg Pruss & Carol Wolper, based on the character created by Raymond Chandler. Directed by Rob Bowman.

   “Let her go, she’s trouble.”
   “Trouble is my business.”

   Slick pilot for a series that never developed, Marlowe features Jason O’Mara (Agents of SHIELD) as Raymond Chandler’s metaphor-and-simile-laden private eye, a good man in the mean streets of 21rst Century Los Angeles, and O’Mara’s tough, human, wounded Marlowe is easily the best thing about this well-intentioned updating of the classic character.

   Marlowe is following a playboy his client suspects is having an affair with his wife when he hears a scream and Traci Faye (Jamie Ray Newman) comes running from the man’s home. Inside Marlowe finds the man he is following dead.

   When the police arrive, in the person of Marlowe’s cop pal Frank Olmer (Adam Goldberg), they arrest Tracy for the murder, and when they have to let her go, she comes to Marlowe for help, thus the little dialogue above between Marlowe and his sexy mothering secretary Jessica (Amanda Righetti).

   The tricky thing about LA is the lies can feel like the truth, and the truth feel like a lie.

   Before long Marlowe has stumbled on a crooked real estate development deal, taken a dive into that famous “black pool” thanks to psychotic Zack Battas (Marcus A. Ferraz), and ended up locked in his car with no way out in the middle of oncoming freeway traffic. He also resists seduction by his client’s wife (Lisa LoCicero) and does not resist Tracy before he uncovers the lies and deceptions leading to the real killer.

   There are some good lines that show the people involved at least know their Chandler:

    “You think she’s not my type? What is it, the clothes?” Marlowe asks a bar owner friend about one of Traci’s girlfriends.
    “That and your general disdain for women who can’t start a sentence without using the word ‘I’.”

   I’m divided on this one. On the one hand O’Mara makes for an attractive and human Marlowe — there is one very good scene between he and the actress playing his client where he loses his temper and in doing so sees the frightened little girl under the seductive exterior — and the plot is actually much more complex than usual for television in keeping with Chandler.

   On the other Marlowe is very much a fish out of water in 21st Century LA, and no one but O’Mara seems to be doing much more than going through the motions, though Newman has that one good scene, and Adam Goldberg is good as his world weary cop buddy. At times everything seems too bright and fresh and new to be classic Marlowe (his office is more 77 Sunset Strip than the Bradbury Building and his secretary more Velda from Mike Hammer than anything in Chandler).

   Over all I recommend it with reservations, if only for O’Mara’s humane Marlowe, it is one of those what might have been situations, where you can see it being very good or going very wrong fast.

   The awful thing about the truth is having to tell it to somebody.

   That’s not half bad, which is pretty much what you can say for this pilot, and considering, that is more of a recommendation than it may sound.