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The Singing Detective | Review

Coming out of the Dan Dark

Downey Jr. shines in a role which will most likely be quickly forgotten.

Calling this film ‘painful to watch’ is not such a far cry from the truth, but its not exactly being honest either. Not that the film doesn’t have its moments, you’ll finds reasons to break a smile and chuckle out some laughs, but you might lose your lunch in the film’s first moments when a macabre discovery is introduced as potentially the worst thing to look in film since Jabba the Hut.

Director Keith Gordon, the guy who played the lead in the laughable horror flick Christine

takes a stab at an idea which was inspired by a Dennis Potter written BBC television series of the mid-eighties and his own tragic life details and which kind of reminds of the film Adaptation, where the characters in a novel are brought to life in a film’s narrative. While the film’s biggest downfall seems to be everything in between, it still succeeds in injecting one dazzling performance. The Singing Detective demonstrates the super charged up talents of Robert Downey Jr. Gothika who plays a decomposing human pizza-faced victim of an unbearable skin disease, but whose scares a several layers underneath the skin. The idea behind the characters is to show how he manages to stop the swelling and suppress his painful childhood traumas by crawling into the skin of his ultra-cool alter ego-a film noir figure and lucky with the ladies lounge singer.

While the film loses it edge after one too many break out into song numbers such as “how much is the dog in the widow” it is in the ineffective blasts from the childhood past that take up too much room from the beautiful moments found in Dark’s hospital bed where we watch him spewing out a vilely funny language. The added presence of long-time chum Mel Gibson Signs makes up for the rest of the cast which come across as being non-factors, Robin Wright Penn Forrest Gump has little to offer in her roles as the Femme fatale for different eras. The majority of the entertaining value of the picture is found in small moments such as a couple of film noir characters (Adrien Brody The Pianist) exposed to sunlight from the middle of the desert and a Katie Holmes (Phone Booth) cameo that sees her give a lube job. Unfortunately, without the count-them-on-your-hands funny moments there isn’t much here to but a cast bundled up in a frame which is less than inspiring and which is perhaps more suited for television type of feature.

I’d been looking forward to The Singing Detective solely on what seemed as a promising cast and a not to shabby looking poster, but unless you were a fan of the series then I don’t see any reason to go out of your way for this tune.

Rating 1.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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