Confess, Fletch (Review) – Jon Hamm’s Sardonic Turn Saves The Case

DIRECTOR: Greg Mottola

CAST: Jon Hamm, Roy Wood Jr., Ayden Mayeri, Lorenza Izzo, Kyle MacLachlan, Annie Mumolo, John Behlmann, John Slattery, Lucy Punch, Marcia Gay Harden

RUNNING TIME: 98 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: Investigative reporter Irwin Fletcher (Hamm) becomes the prime suspect in a murder case…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

It’s been more than thirty years since the silver screen was bewildered by the presence of author Gregory Mcdonald’s sardonic investigative reporter Irwin Fletcher, known best as Fletch. After two reasonably successful films starring Chevy Chase in the lead role, a follow-up was flirted with by the likes of Kevin Smith and Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence, with actors like Ben Affleck, Zach Braff and Jason Sudeikis all being touted for the part, but nothing ever materialised from any of it, and it looked like Fletch would never be seen again.

Of course, “never” is an impossible word to say in Hollywood, and now Fletch lives (again) thanks to the efforts of star and producer Jon Hamm, who along with director Greg Mottola adapts the second of Mcdonald’s popular book series Confess, Fletch as a filmic reboot. The result is an amusing, if never completely perfect, reintroduction of the character that will make fans of the first two movies feel comfortable that their precious protagonist is in safe(ish) hands.

Hamm plays Fletch himself, who has retired from investigative journalism and now resides in Italy, where his girlfriend Andrea (Lorenza Izzo) asks him to look into the disappearance of her wealthy father’s collection of priceless paintings. Upon arriving in Boston, where the paintings are said to be stored, Fletch comes across a dead body in the town house he’s staying in, and quickly becomes the prime suspect in the murder case. Not at all fazed by the serious accusations, nor by the feeble attempts by local detectives Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and Griz (Ayden Mayeri) to keep a closer eye on their suspect, Fletch continues his investigation and meets several potential culprits, from germophobic art dealer Ronald Horan (Kyle MacLachlan) to a Countess (Marcia Gay Harden) who is married to Andrea’s father.

Even though I hadn’t seen either of the previous Fletch films prior to this one, it was incredibly easy to feel the spirit of Chevy Chase and his iconic dry sense of humour all throughout, and nowhere is it more prominent than in Jon Hamm’s central performance. The Mad Men actor, whose comedic talents are often pretty underrated, is on top form here in a heavily sardonic turn that gets a lot of laughs, retaining that nothing-left-to-lose attitude which Chase often carries in most of his on-screen appearances, including (I assume) those aforementioned Fletch outings. Like Chase before him, Hamm has such a charismatic screen presence that he can get away with saying some very off-the-cuff remarks, or doing things that would easily make a lead character like this be an extremely obnoxious presence, because they’re all delivered with a level of smoothness that softens the snarky blow, and he works well opposite other actors who are playing characters that are somehow more larger-than-life than our somewhat eccentric lead. It’s easy to see why Hamm would be drawn to a character like this, and he makes the most of it in a strong comedic performance that’s easily the highlight of this film.

Outside of that, though, it isn’t as though Confess, Fletch is necessarily a bad film, or even that mediocre, but for whatever reason it is one with a noticeably low energy, which does hinder a lot of its comedic potential. While the film is certainly amusing, it never becomes laugh-out-loud hilarious, because Greg Mottola’s direction (from a script he co-wrote with Zev Borow) doesn’t entirely capture the outlandish tone he’s probably aiming for, with certain sequences going on for longer than necessary – particularly one with Annie Mumolo as a weird neighbour with an incontinent dog – or not long enough to spot where a joke could be more prominent. It’s also the kind of mystery where there is a lot of exposition regarding certain developments, some of it quite complicated to wrap your head around, and most of the time you’re waiting for Hamm to come in with another funny line rather than being genuinely invested in the actual plot. Because it doesn’t have a strong enough comedic hook outside of Jon Hamm’s performance, the comedy surrounding him often falls more with a thud than anything, which is sad because nobody else appears to be sleepwalking through any of this, wasting their own potential in the process.

While the film itself isn’t nearly as funny as it perhaps should have been, especially for a revitalisation of a well-known comedy film franchise, there is still a fair amount of amusement to be had with how much Jon Hamm is really investing himself into this character with some genuinely laugh-worthy dialogue every now and then. If there is a sequel – emphasis on “if”, lest we forget that it took three decades for this one to finally get off the ground – hopefully Hamm will be back, along with a much tighter direction that brings out the rest of the comedy around him.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Confess, Fletch is a franchise reboot that’s more amusing than it is genuinely hilarious, easily carried by Jon Hamm’s strong lead comedic performance that earns a few decent chuckles, but held back by low-energy direction that can’t dig up the rest of the comedy surrounding him.

Confess, Fletch is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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