The poster for Too Late has a typo. It says “John Hawkes in Too Late.” It should read “John Hawkes IS Too Late” because he is the one that’s too late in the movie. I went in with an open mind that maybe somebody else was too late and Hawkes would solve the mystery, but he is – in fact – too late.
Too Late is a detective story starring Hawkes as Sampson, trying to solve the murder of the person for whom he was too late. I won’t spoil whom. It unfolds through dialogue and innuendo in about five long single take scenes. I should have counted whether it was five or six. Sorry, I was engrossed. But since it was shot on 35MM film I can do the math, dividing the running time by a maximum of about 20 minute film magazines.
The long takes are never distracting. It’s not show-offy moves like, “How could they pull that off in one take?” although the amount of choreography in the background and foreground does give the scenes layers of color. The long takes actually allow you to get lost in the dialogue, and then you realize, “Wait, it’s been three or four minutes and they’re still rolling…”
These long sequences build tension like Tarantino did in Inglorious Basterds. The camera often functions as editing normally does, but it’s the whip pans directing us instead. It even makes you forget some pretty unforgettable things established earlier in the scene, so they can re-reveal them.
Even without the technique, you’d just want to watch this cast perform the crackling dialogue. It’s Hawkes, Robert Forster, Jeff Fahey, Joanna Cassidy, Crystal Reed, Dichen Lachman, Natalie Zea, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Dash Mihok and Ryder Strong. I had not seen Vail Bloom before but she gives a bravura performance and has earned a spot on my radar.
For his first feature film, writer/director Dennis Hauck makes a really impressive debut. The dialogue evokes classic film and literature gumshoe tales but has its own unique style, the particularly roundabout reference to gumshoes itself being one of my favorites. I got a ‘70s vibe but the only way I can explain that is the film stock and color palette reminded me of the ‘70s. So it’s noirish mystery dialogue in ‘70s style but present day. Now doesn’t that sound like a hell of a show?