'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 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.
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.
Trouble Is My Business cast info via the IMDb.
Brittney Powell and Tom Konkle Trouble Is My Business trailer and image: Lumen Actus.