Watching the Detectives



Peace Arch Entertainment Group

NEW YORK -- Paul Soter's directorial debut is an engagingly loopy screwball comedy that is great fun for a while but eventually becomes wearisome. Although it's refreshing to see Cillian Murphy -- playing a repressed video rental store owner who becomes besotted with a highly eccentric, modern-day femme fatale -- in a rare non-intense mode, "Watching the Detectives" feels too forced in its quirkiness. The film recently was showcased at New York's Tribeca Film Festival.

When Violet (Lucy Liu) walks into Neil's small, independent establishment, he immediately becomes intrigued by her beauty and, most especially, her oddball sense of humor and intense desire to live life to the fullest. This is immediately apparent on their first date, when they are nearly arrested for causing harmless mayhem at a rival megastore.

During the ensuing romance, Neil becomes increasingly caught up in the eccentric Violet's world, which includes a series of ever-escalating and dangerous practical jokes. Although at first he embraces his newfound spontaneity and adventurousness, he soon begins to seriously question his new girlfriend's mental stability.

Resembling a contemporary "Harold and Maude" minus the age factor, the film has plenty of fun moments, many of them provided by the crew of amusing supporting characters who hang out all hours in Neil's store. Murphy reveals a light comic touch as the aggrieved Neil, and Liu delivers a suitably intense turn that keeps the audience as well as Neil guessing about her true nature.

Despite the fine efforts of its lead performers, "Detectives" is ultimately undone by its repetitive plot machinations and the shopworn nature of its premise.