The makers of the movie "Dark Streets," a pastiche of hard-boiled crime and swing-era musical cliché, took such pains to get the look right that they forgot one little thing: a compelling and convincing story.
Well, it looks like someone’s been reading a dog-eared copy of “The Big Sleep” while “Casablanca,” “Chinatown,” “Cabaret” and “The Cotton Club” flickered on a loop in the background. The makers of “Dark Streets,” a pastiche of hard-boiled crime and swing-era musical cliché, took such pains to get the look right that they forgot one little thing: a compelling and convincing story.
Based on a play by Glenn M. Stewart, “Dark Streets” — billed as “musical noir” — is set in a perpetually nocturnal, crumbling urban gangland, circa 1930s. At the center is Chaz (Gabriel Mann), the presumed heir to an energy-company family fortune who finds out that he has been disinherited. He really needs that money to maintain his bawdy but elegant Tower Theater nightclub — where showgirls parade (including his semi-girlfriend, played by Bijou Phillips), jazz musicians play and a mohawked emcee/dancer (underground L.A. performer Toledo) provides the hard-bitten narration expected in a retro crime thriller like this.
But Chaz can’t pay his bills, a situation not helped by the rolling blackouts hitting the city and the murder of some of his employees. He’s got to get to the bottom of what’s going on — if only he’s not too distracted by a new chanteuse (Izabella Miko) he was forced to hire in exchange for protection from the strange man who calls himself Lieutenant (Elias Koteas). And what does his rich uncle (Michael Fairman), who now runs the utility, know, and when did he know it?
While “Dark Streets” looks exquisite and is musically smart — no small feat considering the relatively lean budget — it all feels forced and artificial.
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