By Stacey Gillard
Who doesn’t love a film noir? The appearance of a beautiful, troubled femme fatale, the reluctant hero, the plot that twists and turns so many times it makes your head spin. With No Clue, writer Brent Butt and director Carl Bessai bring us a modern, comedic take on the cinematic classic and whisk us away for an hour and a half of suspense and hilarity.
Butt also stars in the movie as Leo Falloon, a hard working merchandise salesman whose office happens to be close to one of a private investigator. Thinking Leo’s office is where she’ll find the PI, Kyra (Amy Smart) visits him and makes a desperate plea for his help in finding her missing brother. Between the tears of the beautiful woman and her insistence on paying him a hefty per diem Leo doesn’t have the heart to tell her she has made a mistake and takes her case.
Set and filmed in Vancouver, the city’s gaming industry is showcased as it becomes apparent two rival companies were vying for the attention of the man for whom Leo is searching. As Leo delves deeper into the case his inept methods start to become more effective and he realizes he’s making progress. His best friend Ernie (brilliantly brought to life by David Koechner) does what he can to convince Leo he’s making a mistake by following through on his promise to Kyra, but instead ends up helping him in his efforts. Meanwhile Kyra uses her feminine wiles to manipulate Leo at every turn and he starts to realize she might not have been entirely truthful with him.
Owner of Glass Key Games, Horn (David Cubitt), sends his heavies after Leo when he realizes who he is working for, and suddenly the intimidating Church (Dan Payne) is on Leo’s tail at every turn. Payne manages to be intimidating in his dead-pan delivery of threats, playing the perfect straight foil to Butt’s comedy. Dustin Milligan is great as Danny, a friendly and unassuming programmer working for Horn’s rival who is more than willing to help Leo but might be hiding something. In fact very few people in the movie are actually who they appear to be which makes Leo’s final wrap-up of the case at once complicated and hilarious.
The city of Vancouver is itself a character with well-placed overhead shots of the downtown skyline to balance the street level grunginess of East Vancouver used during the most suspenseful scenes. Composer Schaun Tozer created a beautiful soundtrack that evokes an atmosphere of the film noir genre with a modern action movie edge. Bessai’s direction is subtle, taking us on an intimate journey with Leo, seeing the case through his terrified eyes with just the right amount of levity to make our movie going experience one of fun rather than tension.
I was lucky enough to attend an advance screening of No Clue at the Scotiabank Theatre in Vancouver which was also attended by some of the cast and crew. Butt and Bessai did a Q&A session after the screening and gave us some great insight into the film-making process. Butt spoke of the difficulties of melding the film noir and detective genres while making it funny; scenes still had to seem real, and he found it hard to balance funny jokes in heavy scenes. The natural subtlety of his humor comes into play here and even scenes that he picked out as ones he had concerns about on paper worked exceptionally well on the big screen. From starting to write the script to the release of the movie, Butt spent 4 years on this labor of love. This is his first foray into film-making and this reviewer’s opinion is that it was with resounding success.
No Clue is now playing in select Canadian cities.