Hammett

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Wenders' first American movie is no conventional biopic, but a stunningly achieved fiction about the art and mystique of creating fiction. By 1928, Dashiell Hammett is a retired Pinkerton agent, aridly glossing the exploits of his old sidekick Jimmy Ryan as raw material for his magazine stories. But when the real Ryan turns up in San Francisco to plunge Hammett into a Chinatown conundrum of underage hookers, gunsel punks, stag movies, blackmail and murder, he uncovers at first hand the characters and canvas for such subsequent triumphs as The Maltese Falcon, and discovers within himself the seeds of Sam Spade. Wenders' double-edged examination of what Spade later called 'the stuff that dreams are made of' is rich and audacious, as much a homage to bygone Hollywood as to Hammett and the 'roman noir' he pioneered: almost entirely studio-shot, bit-cast with iconic veterans, hauntingly scored. Forrest incarnates the writer as a rumpled but uncreased Bogart; Boyle is the archetypal Archer-type loser; the whole cast plays just one beat away from the genre staples their characters would become in print and the movies. One to savour.

Release details

Duration: 97 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Wim Wenders
Screenwriter: Ross Thomas, Dennis O'Flaherty
Cast: Frederic Forrest
Peter Boyle
Marilu Henner
Roy Kinnear
Lydia Lei
Elisha Cook
RG Armstrong
Richard Bradford
Sylvia Sidney
Samuel Fuller
Ross Thomas
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