WEIRDLAND: Neo-noir "Trouble is My Business" (2018), The case of Raymond Chandler

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Neo-noir "Trouble is My Business" (2018), The case of Raymond Chandler

For those who are fans of classic film noirs that came from the 1940s and the 1950s, including The Big Sleep, The Big Combo, and Murder My Sweet, the 2018 film Trouble is My Business pays homage to those classics from yesteryear. Taking place in Los Angeles in the 1940s, Trouble is My Business is a neo-noir crime drama centering on detective Ronald Drake (Tom Konkle). After a romantic evening with Katherine Montemar, he wakes up the next morning to bloodstained bed sheets, leaving him confused as to what happened. Katherine’s older sister, Jennifer (Brittney Powell), arrives on the scene asking him to search for both her missing father and sister. The search ultimately leads Drake down a dark and winding path as he finds himself caught in a nightmarish situation involving several shady characters, including a corrupt police detective (Vernon Wells) and Evelyn Montemar (Jordana Capra), the wicked mother of Katherine and Jennifer.

Trouble is My Business was also produced by, co-written, and directed by Tom Konkle. Despite being shot on a low budget, it does a remarkable job at capturing a gritty noir atmosphere. It has all the ingredients necessary to make it work well, including femme fatales, dark characters, and disreputable policemen. Konkle appears to have done his homework in capturing the tone and look of a film noir, right down to the outfits that characters wear. The action, while minimal, is still compelling with great dialogue and excellent one-liners. Trouble is My Business arrives in a 2-disc set; one disc featuring the film in color, and the other in black and white. The colorized version is fairly sharp and saturated with good textures. Source:

This is one of those rare indie, lower budget films I truly loved. Not just as a good independent film, but as a great film in general. What I ended up getting with "Trouble Is My Business" was a stylized, well thought out production, that captured the feel it was going for perfectly. This doesn't just look like it was based on the stylized concepts of the genre, it plays like the real thing. From the excellent use of cliche shadows, from blinds and fans - and whatever else could possibly make a great looking shadow, straight through to comedic yet believable dialogue... Sayings like "being a flat tire" and dead-pan one liners, fill the sound space and brought a grin to my face. Generally speaking, Tom Konkle and Brittney Powell have penned an excellent script and Konkle himself has done some excellent work directing it.

The down on his luck private dick. The mysterious dame... and in this case, her sister as well. The rivalry of a competing detective and of course, a slew of villainous characters that are either quirky enough to be sinister, or just down right bad. All the characters within "Trouble Is My Business" feel right at home onscreen, meaning that the actors must have felt at home as well. Lines were corny sounding when they needed to be. Witty when it worked for the scene, and everything you expect from a film of this nature. It's just one of those rare indie productions where everything managed to fall in place. I write that rather loosely, since the reality of things "falling into place" no doubt required a "lot" of hard work. Source:

Trouble Is My Business is a humorous homage to film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, among them John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon and Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. Konkle stars in the sort of role that back in the ’40s and ’50s belonged to the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Alan Ladd. As the femme fatale, Brittney Powell is supposed to evoke memories of Jane Greer, Lizabeth Scott, Lauren Bacall, and Claire Trevor. This is pure homage to the stories of Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, Ross MacDonald, and the films that showcased them. Trouble Is My Business uses the artifice of props and costume and special effects to create 1940s Los Angeles exteriors and lush interiors all of which is slightly unreal, if not a little surreal. Orson Welles, himself a master of the unreal in a number of ways, would be most impressed. Source:

“I wouldn't say she looked exactly wistful, but neither did she look as hard to get as a controlling interest in General Motors.” —“Playback” (1958) by Raymond Chandler

The case of Raymond Chandler: To a correspondent who suggested that Marlowe was immature, Chandler replied sharply that if being in revolt against a corrupt society was immature, then Marlowe was extremely immature. The influence of Chandler is far beyond a detective novelist (he admired Dickens, Flaubert, Fitzgerald). Chandler was admired by Auden, Camus, Graham Greene; modern story-tellers as James Ellroy owe him a hefty debt (Frank Miller, Sin City novels' author, described Dwight McCarthy as a 'modern iteration of Philip Marlowe'), although he'd conform with "twenty-five a day and expenses". Blade Runner (1982), unique combination of sci-fi and noir, contains a similar interrogatory structure. Paul Auster: "Raymond Chandler invented a new way of talking about America, and America has never looked the same to us since".

Josh Brolin as Dwight McCarthy and Eva Green as Ava in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

And then there’s that tough-but-lyrical prose: “The rushing sound of the traffic had died a little and the air from the open window, not yet cool from the night, had that tired end-of-the-day smell of dust, automobile exhaust, sunlight rising from hot walls and sidewalks, the remote smell of food in a thousand restaurants, and perhaps, drifting down from the residential hills above Hollywood-if you had a nose like a hunting dog-a touch of that peculiar tomcat smell that eucalyptus trees give off in warm weather.” Chandler's forte were his wisecracks and similes: “Her eyes became narrow and almost black and as shallow as enamel on a cafeteria tray.” The sun “drops like an angry brick at nightfall”; a night clerk has “one of those moustaches that gets stuck under your fingernail.” The main action takes place in anonymous spaces that seem at once set-designed and decayed. For Fredric Jameson (Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality) the artistic accomplishment of Chandler’s work appears to be its formal evocation of 'the big sleep' itself: “I claim that it is this opening onto the not-world, onto its edge and its end, in the void, in non-human space, in death, that is the ultimate secret of Chandlerian narrative.” 

When MGM purchased the rights to Raymond Chandler's fourth Philip Marlowe mystery in 1945, they asked the novelist to adapt The Lady in the Lake for the screen. It would be the only time Chandler would write a screenplay based on his own work. The result, a rambling 175-page script, was deemed unfilmable and Steve Fisher was brought in for a rewrite. Chandler insisted on a screen credit until he read Fisher's revised screenplay and then wanted his name removed from the credits. While Chandler had issues with the subjective camera gimmick and the deletion of the Little Fawn Lake sequence (a key scene in the original novel), critics were impressed with the film. Newsweek called it "a brilliant tour de force," and The New York Times reported that "The picture is definitely different and affords one a fresh and interesting perspective on a murder mystery." Source:


Anonymous said...

I loved the Trouble Is My Business movie. my husband and I have seen it twice on Amazon. Great article !

Elena W said...

I am glad you enjoyed the film on Amazon, it's very funny and touching, with a powerful cinematography which is amazing due to its very limited budget!