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USA 1977
Directed by
Robert Benton
100 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
4.5 stars

Late Show, The

Private detective Ira Wells (Art Carney) isn't getting any younger. He's also barely staying in business. So when Ira's former partner, Harry (Howard Duff), is killed, Ira vows to not only take on Harry's last job but also to find his friend's murderer. While trying to crack Harry's case, Ira is introduced to Margo (Lily Tomlin), an eccentric pot-selling agent who wants to hire him to retrieve her cat which is being held for ransom. Desperate for the work, Ira takes on the pet search but quickly ends up with Margot as his unexpected new partner and the two of them land right in the middle of a much more dangerous case.

Long before he made The Human Stain (2003) and just before he hit the big time with Kramer Vs Kramer (1979)  Robert Benton wrote and directed this small, unassuming and quite terrific film (which, incidentally, was produced by Robert Altman) catching the sublime Art Carney in the twilight of his career and the brilliant Lily Tomlin just as she was making the transformation from TV’s Laugh-In to a career as a legitimate actor. They are hilarious and heartbreaking together in this gem of a film that gives us a new twist on the buddy movie and manages to be quite a good hard-boiled private-eye story whilst poking a bit of fun at the genre at the same time.

There’s a strong supporting cast including Bill Macy, Eugene Roche and Joanna Cassidy and its 1940’s sets by Robert Gould are reminiscent of the Bogie and Bacall era of detective movies. For a low-key film, The Late Show has big ambitions in the way it sets out to cross-over between different styles of story and genre and it more than succeeds in its goals, giving us a movie that (for me, at least) you can happily watch again and again.




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