Review Of Monsieur Spade

Monsieur Spade
Monsieur Spade
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The first episodes of Monsieur Spade indicate the possibility of having an aging Dashiell Hammett’s famous private detective Sam Spade in a small town in southern France and have him observe its secrets. However, this subsequent book following the greatest ever detective novel by Hammett, The Maltese Falcon, rapidly disintegrates. Even Clive Owen’s great acting cannot offset too many clashing plots that fail to reach a gratifying ending.

With Humphrey Bogart-like swagger complements his own masterful worldliness in Children of Men and other roles Owen is well cast as Spade. After being sent to Bozouls, a small French village to sort out some matters involving Brigid O’Shaughnessy from The Maltese Falcon, her accomplice Philippe Saint-Andre (played by Jonathan Zaccaï) and their daughter Teresa (Cara Bossom), he finds himself with another job offer from lovely vineyard proprietress Gabrielle (Chiara Mastroianni). Owen has good chemistry with Mastroianni but instead of delving into the romance that develops between their characters, Monsieur Spade relies more on them sparking off each other.

Instead Scott Frank and Tom Fontana take us eight years hence: 1963. Once again we meet Sam as a widower enjoying retired life with wine and naked swimming at his beautiful home pool when a brutal murder takes place at the convent where he had left Teresa. From there it becomes a reasonably successful riff on “hardened man protects clever girl” amidst an absurdly twisted story involving too many people.

One major issue is whether Frank and Fontana are mocking or paying tribute to noir devices used in The Maltese Falcon and its progenies. It starts with an awkward intro text that notes how ridiculous it is for arguably the most famous private investigator ever created to find himself in France, then proceeds to characters who repeatedly mock Sam Spade and also at some point nosy neighbors played by Matthew Beard and Rebecca Root inappropriately show up for comic relief. That makes the otherwise serious plots of Monsieur Spade on the horrors of the Algerian War seem absolutely inconsistent. Frank might have succeeded to blend violence with comedy romance in Out of Sight 26 years ago, but the leap between war crimes grappling and spy spoofing is too big.

Spade’s clever dialogue when he effortlessly disarms people after being dragged into investigating a murder with Bozouls’ ironic police chief Patrice Michaud (Denis Ménochet) is when this series is at its best. Herr Philippe, as seen later, would be a formidable villain even though it takes several episodes before he comes on stage. With an emphysemic smile that matches that of Spade himself, his character poses a real challenge for a detective both out of practice and having smoked heavily for many years (as a result of which he has developed emphysema). The score’s moody jazz music and glimpses into dark secrets among supposedly saintly characters in Bozouls all contribute to creating a noir atmosphere.

These six episodes often feel like they come from different television shows stapled together. The Maltese Falcon’s titular MacGuffin was a conventionally valuable object, but the one in Monsieur Spade is so bizarre that it causes the plot to twist between small-town drama, espionage thriller, and an awful knockoff of The Da Vinci Code. Monsieur Spade is charming when Spade and Michaud are belittling the skills of a local chef, and it delivers compelling, if out of place, drama through the story of Algerian War veteran Jean-Pierre Devereaux (Stanley Weber). However, it was terrible when its focus turned to a fanatical sect within the Vatican.

In these last two episodes Several new characters are introduced that do nothing more than confuse things even further as there were for example pointless additions such as several inheritances belonging to different people which however never went anywhere since then attempted blackmails so late in time seem odd while trying to heal by Jean-Pierre’s dying father.

Most troubling: Spade doesn’t feel like the center of his own show. Practically every break in this case comes from another character doing some legwork or writing sloppiness about villains. Most of the climactic conflict passes with him stuck in traffic and even the final scene unfolds with a guest star coming into their house at its closing moments for all appearances sake. So long as he still displays his famous wit he can lose a few fights with age setting in on him. But his zenith came in episode four when he dropped all pretenses while beating up a French spy before us; just because scotsmen say oatmeal porridge does not mean that we will fail to recognize what is actually scrambled eggs.”


Measuring up to one of the greatest films ever made was always going to be difficult for Monsieur Spade, but the sequel tries too hard by incorporating too many complicated plots and many different types of stories into one. Clive Owen did a great job with the witty lines and there are also some good supporting actors but it’s hardly enough to save this clumsy attempt at returning the legendary PI into action.

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