CONFESS, FLETCH - Review - We Are Movie Geeks



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Yes, it’s a bit late for a flick based on a “beach book’ (usually a paperback you’d read while getting your tan near the water’s edge), so how about something more suited to Autumn, perhaps a movie based on a mystery one would read while enjoying a warm beverage next to a fireplace? Oh, I forgot to mention that this particular film is part of a literary series featuring a much-beloved sleuth. Now, we just had a visit from Hercule Poirot a few months ago, so his mustache is “in mothballs” for the moment. Anyway, this character is not known as a detective or a “consultant” (like the fellow at 221B Baker Str.). The title “hero” of this tale is an investigative reporter, or at least he was (he’s telling everyone that he’s “retired”). And he’s been absent from the screen for 33 years now. Oh, there are police detectives aplenty as this “man of leisure” gets involved with art heists, forgery, kidnapping, and murder. And, of course, the cops are imploring him to CONFESS, FLETCH.

It all starts (maybe “kicks into high gear”) on a warm Boston evening. In a “high-end” urban neighborhood Irwin Maurice “Fletch” Fletcher (Jon Hamm) unlocks the front door of the rental home where he’ll be staying during his latest “research trip”. In the lobby is a welcome note under a wine bottle. And several feet away from that is the lifeless body of a twenty-something blonde woman. Fletch calls the police (the general number, not 9-11), and soon opens his door to the homicide squad led by Detective “slo-mo” Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and his aide, Detective Griz (Ayden Mayeri). During questioning, Fletch explains how this “west-coater” came to be there…via Italy. He insists that he’s “retired” from Investigative journalism, but a hefty”retainer” prompted him to fly to Venice to meet with an heiress named Angela AKA “Andy” (Lorenza Izzo), who’s looking to locate several very pricey paintings from her father’s collection. Andy suspects that her snooty stepmother, who insists on being called “The Countess” (Marcia Gay Harden), had a gloved, jeweled hand in it. To complicate things further, Andy’s pop, the Count, has been kidnapped. The ransom: a multi-million dollar original Picasso. The pot is “sweetened” for Fletch when he begins an affair with Andy leading to their engagement. But he leaves her for “Beantown” where all leads point to an established art dealer, and EDM fan (Kyle MacLachlan). The police release Fletch as a “person of interest”, so he’s got to “shake them” to find the art and the reason why somebody would “set him up” on a murder charge. Over the next few days, Fletch, using several aliases, discovers several suspects including the rental home’s owner Owen (John Behlmann), his soon-to-be-ex-wife (Lucy Punch), and their spacy hippie neighbor Eve (Annie Mumolo) while dodging Monroe and Griz. But what happens when his new fiancee is added to that roster? Can Fletch’s former boss, newspaper editor Frank (John Slattery) point him toward the real “perps” before the “frame sticks”?

The role of the “snarky sleuth” feels like a near-perfect fit for Hamm as he tries to go from an iconic TV role (Don Draper) into leading man roles in feature films (he scored recently with his supporting role in TOP GUN: MAVERICK). While he makes good use of his “matinee idol” looks (we don’t question the quick pairing with Andy), Hamm finally gets a chance to showcase his superb comic skills that we’ve seen on TV (great hosting gigs on SNL, and a recurring role on “30 Rock”). And whether tossing off an effortless one-liner or a blistering “burn”, or going “all in” as a zany phony expert, Hamm puts his distinctive mark on the beloved “righteous rascal”. He may be at his “best” when verbally sparring with Wood as the laconic Monroe, whose “laid-back” style lulls many into letting their guards down. Fletch may think that he can charm his way around him, but Wood can “throw down” with him when needed. Though he flummoxes his co-workers, particularly the often exasperated Griz, played with a perfect “slow burn” by Mayeri. And it’s great to see Hamm back with his old “Mad Men” co-star Slattery as they share a warm rapport as two pals who know each other’s “MO”. Much as in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, Izzo is a stunning Italian femme fatale, who pushes Fletch until he needs to push back. Screen vets Hardin, MacLachlan, Punch, and Mumolo also score big laughs as the loopy “red herrings”. Or are they?

So, after countless attempts to bring the character back to the big screen (from Jason Lee to Zach Braff to Joshua Jackson, among others), director/co-screenwriter Greg Mottola (who adapted Gregory McDonald’s 1976 novel with Zev Borow) is the one to “reboot’ (and maybe “revamp”) the wiseacre sleuth. So, can he move out of the shadow of Chevy Chase’s late 1980s efforts? Yes, I’d say that it strives to be “its own animal” and largely succeeds thanks to Hamm (who was part of Mottola’s last film KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES). and his supporting ensemble. Unfortunately, the new entry has the same problems as its legacy in that the central mystery is, well, almost as stale as Colombo’s cigars. Twists and turns, along with double and triple crosses are tossed in with some “floating” a long, long time before their “payback”. But, like the earlier mentioned Poirot movies, are you that concerned over “pinched” paintings, although the murder “set up” gives it a bit of much-needed urgency (and yet, there’s still that “lull” around the one-hour mark). Nope, this is merely an excuse for our hero to pelt the dense and pompous with insults and try and bluff his way out when a ruse starts to crack. So is this the start of a new movie franchise? Well, probably not though it would be an entertaining occasional cable or streaming feature. So, unless you’re a diehard Chase devotee, you’ll chuckle many times as those in charge try to compel IMF to CONFESS, FLETCH.

3 Out of 4

CONFESS, FLETCH is now playing in select theatres and is streaming as a video-on-demand via most services.

Jim Batts was a contestant on the movie edition of TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in 2009 and has been a member of the St. Louis Film Critics organization since 2013.

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