As I’ve mentioned before (perhaps every time I stumble into a film featuring private dicks), I grew up reading the dime novel prose of Chandler, Hammett, Cain, and Spillane. Even today, I still love the stuff. There’s just a cadence to the writing and storytelling that sits unmatched in all the genres of fiction. As a consequence, I rarely – if ever – pass up watching anything headlining a self-employed detective in any leading role. Even when they come out on DVD, I generally pick it up right away or rush to find any site that streams it so I can drink it in, all in its unadulterated glory. Plus – unlike other aficionados of the literature – I enjoy the comedies, skits and parodies of it, of which NO CLUE is definitely a pleasant winner.
No, it isn’t the kind of film that’ll win countless accolades. No, it probably isn’t the type of flick that would fall onto most folks’ radar. But I promise you that, if you give it 90 minutes, then you’re likely to enjoy it nearly as much as I did.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “When a beautiful and mysterious woman (Amy Smart) bursts into the office of Leo Falloon (Brent Butt), desperate to find her missing brother, it’s just another day in the life of a hard-boiled detective. The problem is, Leo’s not a detective. He sells novelty advertising across the hall from the detective, but how hard can it be?”
Now, that alone should tell you everything one would need to know about whether or not NO CLUE falls into your area of interest. Obviously, it’s a comedy of circumstances – one wherein the world’s least likely man gets the off-chance to be a hero – meaning it’ll all have to go down with more than two shakes of salt. But largely to the credit of a winning cast – Butt, Smart and David Koechner – and some spot-on direction from Carl Bessai, this is probably the easiest 90-plus minutes I’ve digested in quite some time. Given the fact that it’s loaded with plenty of small, character-driven laughs, I couldn’t help but enjoy it.
NO CLUE borrows its structure from the classic P.I. movies of old – the lovely lady crashes into an office in a dire predicament, forcing the man-at-arms to rise up in order to vanquish whatever threat is posed to her. The butt of the joke is Butt (Brent Butt), who clearly doesn’t know the first thing about beginning an investigation, but his fondness for solving puzzles and keeping customers happy surely won’t serve him ill in the situation. I guarantee you won’t stumble on a less likely hero this week, though his affable charm, bumbling speech, and golly-gee-shucks attitude should win you over in no time.
Looking more like Veronica Lake than any woman should, Amy Smart steps into the role as the damsel-in-distress; yet before the picture is half over she’s also morphed rather nicely into a possible femme fatale. Together, they’re as mismatched as couples can get, but it’ll put their old school chemistry – not unlike any Tracy/Hepburn pairing – to the test if they’re to put the pieces of this puzzle together and get out safely with their lives. Suffice it to say, there’s a bit of murder on the horizon that turns out to be all-too-true; like a good Spillane novel, they won’t solve that one until the very last moment!
Lastly, I’d be remiss in my duties if I failed to point out that NO CLUE played as an Official Selection of the LA Comedy Festival; also, Shaun Tozer’s score won the 2014 Leo Award for Best Musical Score in a Feature Length Drama. Hats off to all involved!
NO CLUE (2013) is produced by Sparrow Media Company, Entertainment One, Myriad Pictures, and Pacific All Risk Production Company. DVD distribution is being handled by E One Entertainment (aka Entertainment One). As for the technical specifications? This is one smartly assembled charming comedy that doesn’t skimp of turning out some quality sights and sounds; there’s even a measure of creative cinematography thrown in for good measure. Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then there’s an audio commentary by star Butt and director Bessai along with a 10-minute-plus behind-the-scenes featurette.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Tip: I love private eye movies. Tip: I love smart comedy. Tip: I love characters who have low-to-zero self-awareness. Therefore, I had an awful lot of fun with NO CLUE. This unrated release is also very family-friendly (there’s a bit of blood in only one scene, but it’s handled with great visual tact, unlike some other comedies in the same vein). Unlikely leading man Brent Butt (who also wrote this) makes a convincing leading man playing a mostly clueless knucklehead who – by circumstance – finds himself in the role of private investigator. Maybe there aren’t any big laughs, but there are smaller ones in abundance.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at E One Entertainment (aka Entertainment One) provided me with a DVD copy of NO CLUE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.