Trouble Is My Business indie film
October 25, 2017
UK Film Review
Directed by Tom Konkle
Starring Tom Konkle, Vernon Wells, Brittney Powell, Steve Tom, Benton Jennings, Mark Teich, Jordana Capra,
Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
Classic crime noir adventure in this indie film from director Tom Konkle, Trouble Is My Business taps into a reservoir of genre conventions to deliver a good ol’ mystery and kidnapping story using amazing cinematography, costumes and filmmaking aesthetics to embolden the myriad of vibrant characters.
Disgraced private investigator Roland Drake (Tom Konkle) may have taken on more than he can handle when the daughter of a prominent family comes to him for help in finding her father, who has been missing for a week. To make matters worse, she then goes missing! With a punctured reputation being splattered all over the tabloids and a rocky relationship (to say the least) with the authorities, Drake must navigate his way through copious amounts of mystery and violence to find answers.
In the vain of films like Laura and Double Indemnity, Trouble Is My Business ticks a lot of cinematic boxes when it comes to delivering a period crime drama. The darkened urban streets and grimly lit office are all there alongside the tumblers of whisky and snappy dialogue. Even the font used on the opening credits smacks of ’40s noir. Tonally there is a huge amount for audiences to be immersed in with this movie and great effort has been put into the sublime mise en scéne. Certain sequences may feel a little over the top but it’s a genre movie that can certainly indulge in a bit of melodrama without jolting the audience out of the experience.
Konkle is a particularly strong lead, containing all the wit, charm and ruggedness you could want for a private dick, and engaging in some fantastically theatrical banter with almost all of the characters. He gets ruffed up along the way by an absolutely sterling performance from Vernon Wells as Detective Tate, whose long arm of the law stretches far and wide. Along with Konkle in most scenes is the excellent Brittney Powell who commands so many of the frames she is in as Jennifer.
With a running time of nearly two hours, Trouble Is My Business stretches itself too thin in terms of plot, especially during the final third. It’s a storyline that keeps to the path well trodden and didn’t need as much convolution as it has. That being said when cinema is as visually arresting as this you don’t mind sticking around a little longer. The use of an eclectic array of Hollywood backdrops (I assume using green screen) is just magnificent, one rooftop scene where Tate beats seven bells out of Drake is sublimely put together, as are the numerous car scenes and shoot outs.
The phrase “they don’t make them like this anymore” could not be more apt for Konkle’s film, co-written with Powell. It’s a genre movie that completely dedicates itself to the form and reaps the benefits for its boldness. Fans of the masters of cinema will be in their absolute element, ricocheting against the costumes, sets, characters and more as the story unwinds into a classic caper with all the trimmings. Now…where did I leave MY whiskey tumbler.
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‘Trouble Is My Business’: Humorous Film Noir Pays Homage to ‘Touch of Evil’ & Other Classics
By Tim Cogshell
‘Trouble Is My Business’: Humorous film noir homage evokes memories of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ & ‘Touch of Evil’
A crunchy, witty, and often just plain funny mash-up of classic noir tropes, from hard-boiled private dicks to the easy-on-the-eyes femme fatales – in addition to dialogue worthy of Dashiell Hammett and, occasionally, Mel Brooks – Trouble Is My Business means business, but it doesn’t mind having a good chuckle as it walks the dark and winding path of double-crosses, corruption, and death.
Directed by Tom Konkle, who also co-wrote and co-stars with Brittney Powell as the dick and the dame, Trouble Is My Business – no direct connection to Raymond Chandler’s 1939 Philip Marlowe short story – features Konkle as private eye Roland Drake, the quintessential representation of the 1940s noir detective – no pretty boy – with a visage having more in common with Robert Mitchum, who played Marlowe in the 1975 neo-noir Farewell My, Lovely, than Humphrey Bogart, who was Sam Spade in the movie about the black bird.
Neither of those guys were pretty boys either, which is why we bought them – and that’s why we buy Konkle as a forlorn detective taking the rap for the death of a girl he was supposed to save.
Femme fatale Brittney Powell
Brittney Powell is also a veteran actor whose credits include Brunhilda in Xena: Warrior Princess, among several auspicious roles in all manner of film and television. She’s very good as Jennifer Montemar, a part written by Powell herself so she could play the kind of woman she always wanted.
Jennifer has a good deal more humor than, say, Mary Astor’s desperate femme fatale in The Maltese Falcon. Yet Powell (eventually) gives the character even more of an edge than Jane Greer’s blond, man-eating girl-shark in Out of the Past.
Film noir references
Those movies and a number of others that only true aficionados of the genre will notice are referenced in Trouble Is My Business. For fans, catching little homages to Double Indemnity and Murder, My Sweet is lovely, but the film Trouble Is My Business circles most often is the great Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.
Shades of Welles’ evil Police Captain Hank Quinlan show up in the character played by veteran actor Vernon Wells (The Road Warrior): Detective Barry Tate, a sadistic sociopath of a cop that Drake must eventually face – alongside his other demons.
Twists and turns + artifice
The twists and turns of the plot in Trouble Is My Business are every bit as serpentine as those in most noir. I still don’t know what’s going on in The Maltese Falcon, and I’m not sure I know exactly what’s going on in this movie either – but as is the case with most noir, who cares? It’s the ride and the characters and the very tone itself – not the stories – that make noir … noir.
To that end, the filmmakers here use another film noir trope: artifice. The film noirs of old were generally inexpensive productions; some were actually cheap. They usually faked everything from locations and lighting to the existence of walls and ceilings where there were none.
The use of darkness was not necessarily a stroke of filmmaking genius in the production of noir, it was at times a necessity because there was usually very little production design and often lots of stuff to hide. The leading man never changed clothes because the leading lady‘s wardrobe was more important.
Trouble Is My Business (2017)
Dir.: Tom Konkle.
Scr.: Tom Konkle & Brittney Powell.
Cast: Tom Konkle. Brittney Powell. Vernon Wells. David Beeler. Steve Tom. Ben Pace. Mark Teich. Doug Spearman. Jordana Capra. Benton Jennings. William Jackson. E. Sean Griffin.
IndyRed Film Review
Trouble Is My Business
( 2018 )
“Passion. Murder. Betrayal. Just another day on the job.”
Full disclosure: the reviewer rolled the dice and gambled a contribution to help fund this independent production.
Private investigator Roland Drake (Tom Konkle) faces eviction from his office and his career after being disgraced during a missing persons case ending in tragedy. Ruined in the public eye and shunned by the law, everything seems over until redemption walks in: a curvy dark-haired beauty named Katherine Montemar… desperate to hire anyone who can locate her disappeared family members. Both vulnerable and in need of companionship, their undeniable attraction is cut short when Drake wakes next to a pool of blood and his new client vanished from his bed. After misdirecting his equally skilled but unscrupulous ex-partner Lew MacDonald (David Beeler) from discovering the potential crime scene on a suspicious chance visit, Drake is soon confronted by Katherine’s blonde sister Jennifer (Brittney Powell), armed with a fistful of photos and a .38 special. In 1940s Los Angeles where corrupt cops rule the city underworld and moral lines are anything but black and white, trouble is Roland Drake’s business… and business is good.
Hardboiled detectives, femme fatales, and a mandatory MacGuffin are all part of the tradition we call film noir. “Guns, dames, and hats” are the order of the day in these brooding period pieces, a bygone era of Hollywood like westerns and musicals. There have been the occasional callbacks with films like L.A. Confidential, Sin City, and even the original Blade Runner repurposing it as a vision of the future — a detail mostly missing from the recent sequel. All of these undertakings require extensive budgets, finding or recreating the trappings and props of the time period, and to develop the visuals required to invoke the all-important atmosphere that defines the film style. Rarely are the words “independent” and “noir” uttered in reference to a feature-length film intended to celebrate and champion a new entry into this staple of the movie industry, but with the right combination of players, passion, and just long enough of a shoestring to fish spare change out of the sewer, can a compelling dark thriller become the end result?
As evidenced by Trouble Is My Business, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Less a passion project than a labor of love, writer-director-actor Thomas Konkle gathered the necessary ingredients and managed to draw forth a film by sheer force of will. With years involved in the writing, planning, independent and personal financing, and using every movie-making trick imaginable, Trouble is to film noir what Once Upon a Time in the West was to the western: the final word. With classic elements, a fresh cast, and painstaking detail, Konkle has created a world both familiar and new. Twists, betrayal, and mystery are finely intertwined with the wit, violence, and eventuality of the genre.
Locations are important to a production like this, but what couldn’t be found and rented had to be created — often digitally. While Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow buckled under the weight of “look what we can do,” Konkle puts his players in the foreground and allowed the story to dictate the effects, not the other way around. With talents like Jordana Capra as matriarch Evelyn Montemar and Vernon Wells as Detective Barry Tate, the production is nearly seemless and perhaps too-real in its detail, from meticulous editing to a sweeping soundtrack. It’s clear what the filmmakers wanted this to become, and the time put into the post production shows what can be done with today’s off-the-shelf filmmaking tools and the ingenuity of modern creators.
Over the last five years, this reviewer has seen several independent productions shaped from concept to completion. From an old-time rocket ship carrying space rangers into the great beyond to a backwoods werewolf reneging on his deal with the devil, there’s no shortage of imagination out there while Hollywood continues to reboot television and movie franchises they never understood to begin with. Trouble sets itself apart in both ambition and execution, and the risk yielded a great reward: a film deserving to be seen and appreciated.
Four skull recommendation out of four
Trouble Is My Business – it gives noir a good name
Trouble Is My Business, the feature directorial debut of Tom Konkle, is not so much a neo-noir thriller as an homage to noirs of years past. It’s a stylish love poem, really, lifting many of the timeless elements that made noirs so powerful in the 1930s through the 1950s, including the hard-boiled detective, the femme fatale, and the MacGuffin (in this case, a diamond).
Konkle (who cowrote the script with his costar, Brittney Powell) stars as Roland Drake, a shamed shamus who now runs a one-man detective agency after his partner Lew (David Beeler) moved on to bigger and better things. Drake gets a phone call from a mysterious woman who – of course – desperately needs his help in locating her missing father, a man who had somehow procured a famous, expensive diamond from overseas. The diamond, incidentally, is also missing. But before Drake can get to some serious detecting, his mystery woman is dead. In his bed. A bad start to a bad day!
And soon he has company – the dead woman’s sister, Jennifer Montemar (Powell). Jennifer assumes Drake had a hand in her sister’s death, but she too wants to find her father. And the diamond, of course. But Drake finds himself up against almost everyone, including his ex partner, a sadistic detective (played by perennial heavy Vernon Wells), a corrupt police force, a haughtily rich family, and some Russian mobsters.
Now, it may seem like there are a lot of people in this murky stew. But I found the direction – particularly the pacing – to be a huge asset, offsetting the many variables to some extent. It’s also helpful that the story isn’t told in a completely linear way; in fact, it spices things up a bit. If the plot simply a series of contrived events, the nonlinearity might prove to be confusing. But the script is tight, to the point where short snippets of dialog or a darting glimpse of a scene can prove to take on added meaning as the movie progresses – or, indeed, no meaning at all.
Konkle is very well cast as the weary, yet noble, gumshoe who may be in over his head. Of all of the characters in the movie, Drake is certainly the most developed, the most relatable, and the best portrayed. I’m not sure how many actual noirs Konkle the director saw before making this film, but Konkle the actor seemed to channel Sam Spade and Mike Hammer effortlessly. I found it pretty easy to believe that Drake could be dumb enough to fall for a dame but smart enough to stay one step ahead of, well, everyone else. The rest of the cast ranged from sufficient to very solid to slightly hammy. That’s not a slight against the cast, either. This is not a movie in which every performance needs to be Oscar worthy. The biggest roles – Drake and Jennifer – were spectularly aced, and that’s important.
Sometimes the movie’s tone shifted abruptly – from a serious detective tale to a slapstick comedy. The occasional joke makes sense, but here the one liners sometimes took me out of the scene (and, in fact, made me remember that this is a modern film, even though it is set in the late 1940s). Comic timing is never easy when you’re working on a dramatic film, I assume. It’s just that sometimes an actor’s line delivery would feel almost like they had just stepped out of character for a moment. That’s the tone shift I noticed.
But for the most part, this was a wonderful film, and it should be seen by fans of the genre. It might have come off even better had it been filmed in black and white (which I believe is a much more expensive process nowadays), but some of the scenes are lit to give one the impression of monochrome, with stark contrasts and sharp angles.
ARTICLE ON NOIR BY FILM NOIR BLONDE
Noir is a genre that will never go away because it’s character-based,” Brooks continues. “It’s about putting people in the darkest situation and seeing how they’ll try to get out of it. No matter where we are in the world, there will always be people who use violence as a way out.”
It’ll probably be awhile though — if it ever happens — before Hollywood starts emulating the wild, perverse and imaginative approach exemplified by the current crop of indie noirs.
“There seems to be the freedom in indies to defy the typical Hollywood product,” observes Jacqueline Fitzgerald, founder and editor of the genre-focused website Film Noir Blonde
no Twitter with current id
In her autobiography, Bacall recalls the couple’s emotive beginnings in a stolen kiss in her dressing room: “He was standing behind me — we were joking as usual — when suddenly he leaned over, put his hand under my chin and kissed me.” The two went on to enjoy one of the most successful Hollywood marriages to date, producing two children and a generation of on screen memories. Sadly, the 25 year age gap between the two would precede an end to the relationship on Bogart’s death in 1957. In her later years, Bacall typified her career as an aging actress by appearing in commercials for discount clothes-lines and cat foods, while her ventures onscreen varied in their success. However, the now 89 year-old actress has experienced recent critical acclaim for her roles in Dogville and Walker. Today, Bacall is still in work and has been rumoured to appear in Tom Konkle’s noir throw-back Trouble Is My Business (not to be confused with Chandler’s book of the same name).
Neo-noir revivals have broken out periodically since the mid-20th century. “Chinatown” in 1974, the Coen brothers’ debut “Blood Simple” a decade later and the ironic approach Quentin Tarantino spearheaded in the 1990s all placed then-contemporary spins on the noir themes of paranoia, betrayal, obsession and corruption.
We’re now in the midst of another great noir renaissance, although you may not have noticed it. Low-budget, American indie films such as “Blue Ruin” (opening in select theaters Friday), “Cheap Thrills,” “Perfect Sisters,” “Cold Comes the Night,” “Better Living Through Chemistry,” “Cold in July” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” have been wowing audiences on the festival circuit and Video on Demand, as well as the lucky few astute enough to catch some of their limited, commercial theatrical releases.