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MARLOWE: 2 ½ STARS. “questions in search of a meaningful story.”

“I intend to ask questions,” says detective Philip Marlowe (Liam Neeson) in the new gumshoe thriller “Marlowe,” now playing in theatres. And ask questions he does. This revisiting of the classic hardboiled 1930s P.I. Philip Marlowe, made famous on the big screen by Humphrey Bogart, isn’t so much a story as it is a very long series of questions strung together to tell the tale. Screenwriter William Monahan, adapting “The Black-Eyed Blonde,” a 2014 authorized Marlowe novel by Irish writer John Banville, must have burned out the “?” key on his typewriter.

Set in Hollywood, in 1939, the same year Raymond Chandler published “The Big Sleep,” his first Marlowe novel, the movie begins when Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger) hires the detective to find her missing lover, Nico Petersen (François Arnaud). A prop master at one of the studios, he makes extra cash smuggling drugs into the United States in the props he imports from Mexico.

The police say Nico was killed in a hit and run outside a fancy private club, Cavendish thinks he is still alive and Marlowe has questions. Lots of questions.

When “Marlowe” isn’t in Q&A mode, it has, if nothing else, a collection of interesting characters. Jessica Lange makes an impression as a secretive former movie star who just might be her daughter’s love rival, Danny Houston redefines creepy bluster as a pimp at the upmarket Corbata Club but it is Alan Cumming who leaves a lasting impression. He is businessman, philanthropist and gangster Lou Hendricks, a chewer of scenery who delivers lines like, “I am entirely composed of tarantulas,” with the gusto of a Marvel villain.

Neeson gives the title character a world weariness that borders on ennui. In the Raymond Chandler books he is portrayed in his 30s and 40s. Neeson is 70 and, as Marlowe, is still able to take on a room full of bad guys with his fists and his wits, but he’s seen too much of the underside of life, and it has left him cynical, disengaged to the evil that men do. “I’m getting too old for this,” he says after dispatching a group of baddies, and given Neeson’s listless performance, he may be right.

“Marlowe” has the look and feel of an old time Hollywood noir, but is a pale imitation of the real thing. The golden haze that hangs over every frame can’t disguise the fact that this is a movie comprised of a series of questions with unsatisfying answers in search of a meaningful story.

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