Beverly Hills Cop

[audio:/podcasts/pdm18.mp3]
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Story: A Detroit cop head to Beverly Hills to investigate the death of one of his buddies.

Detective: Axel Foley

Release Date:  December 5, 1984

Writer: Danilo Back, Daniel Petrie, Jr.

Source: original screenplay

Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Alastair: Yes, there’s no doubt this is Axel’s story.
Lani: Yes, always clear from the start who the protagonist is, although the trouble doesn’t start until a little while in.

Murderer as antagonist?
Alastair: Yes, albeit by proxy.
Lani: Yes, although not the guy who actually pulled the trigger, it’s Victor Maitland who’s behind everything from the start.

Conflict created by mystery/murder?
Alastair: Yes, although this is an interesting case of a murder that builds into a larger mystery.
Lani: Yes; without the murder, Axel would have no interest in Maitland.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Alastair: It’s not that kind of mystery, I think, although the meaning of each clue — except perhaps the coffee — is transparent enough that we can keep up.
Lani: Not really; although we do see the clues, we don’t know what they might mean, and we’re not given the opportunity to play along the way a good mystery does.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Alastair: Yes, although the problems aren’t necessarily approached in the smartest way.
Lani: Yes. Even if we don’t understand what’s going on, Axel does, and he puts it all together.

All threads pull together in the end?
Alastair: Yes, if a little too early. The mystery is done by the end of the second act, and then we get twenty-five minutes of shoot-out.
Lani: Yes.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Alastair says: 4 Pops
Mystery: 3, Craft: 3, Suspense: 2, Romance: N/A, Comedy: 5

Lani says: 4 Pops
Mystery: 3, Craft: 4, Suspense: 2, Romance: n/a, Comedy: 5

 

Fletch

Fletch

Story: A journalist covering the drug scene on a Los Angeles beach soon finds himself embroiled in a bigger mystery involving a bigamist and his beautiful wife.
Detective: Irwin M. Fletcher
Release Date:  May 31, 1985
Writer: Andrew Bergman
Source: Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Jenny: Yep, right off the bat.  Good start.
Lani: Yes, and he’s right into the trouble as soon as the movie fades in. Well done.
Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny: Yep, right off the bat.  Plus Tim Matheson.  Excellent start.
Lani: Yes, and he’s there from the start. You could argue that Karlin is also an antagonist, and you’d be right, but he’s also there at the start; although we don’t see him until later, his influence is right there, causing trouble on the beach when Gummy’s getting beat up. So no matter who you think the main antagonist is – it’s Matheson – both antagonists are active in the opening scene.
Conflict created by mystery/murder?
Jenny: Yes, by the request for murder.
Lani: Yes.
Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny: Yep, we see them as Fletch finds them.
Lani: Yes; we see everything as Fletch finds it. We don’t get his deduction; he says he figured it out when Gail said he was about the same size as her husband, and he doesn’t tell us that. He doesn’t have to. We get the clue, and we can make the deduction from that as well. I kind of liked that he had it figured, but we still had to do our own work.
Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny: Yes.  Except for the glaring coincidence at the beginning which is allowable since it’s the first move in the plot, every is discovered using logical deduction.
Lani: Yes; Fletch (well, Smart Fletch) figures it all out on his own. Stupid Fletch sticks straws up his nose.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Jenny says: 3 Pops  (They had a good book and they put garbage in it.)
Mystery: 5, Craft: 2, Suspense: 2, Romance: N/A, Comedy: 3
Lani says: 4 Pops
Mystery: 5, Craft: 4, Suspense: 2, Romance: n/a, Comedy: 3

IMPORTANT NOTE: I recommended the Fletch books on the podcast, and then afterward sat down to read the first book for the first time in about twenty years.  In this book, he sleeps with a fifteen-year-old, a detail I evidently missed the first time around.  I no longer recommend the Fletch books. Try the Flynn books. Francis Xavier Flynn is a good guy.

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Hot Fuzz

[audio:/podcasts/pdm16.mp3]
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Story:
A city cop tries to bring professionalism to a sleepy little town that turns out to be not that sleepy.  Graphic violence ensues.  The tagline says it all: “They’re bad boys. They’re die hards. They’re lethal weapons. They are…HOT FUZZ.”

Detective: Nicholas Angel (and his partner Danny)

Release Date: February 2007

Writers: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg

Source:  Original screenplay.

Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Jenny: Yes, introduced right off the bat, his POV all the way through the movie except for the murderer’s skulking scenes.
Lani: Yes, and he’s active from the beginning, god bless ‘im.

Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny:  Yes.  It’s Murder on the Orient Express, the Whack-Job Countryside versionl
Lani: Yes. All fifty-four of them.

Conflict created by mystery/murder?
Jenny:  Yes.
Lani: Yes, not that we know it until 40 minutes in.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny: Yes.  The movie is absolutely larded with clues disguised as jokes.
Lani: Yes, we’re given everything the detective is, and only one or two things more – witnessing the crimes – but that’s okay.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny: Yes.  We know what Nick knows and we’re stunned when Nick is stunned.
Lani: Yes; Nick comes to everything on his own, using clues given.

Everything pulls together in the end?
Jenny:  Yes.  There are no loose ends in this movie.
Lani: Does it ever. They may have been self-indulgent in this movie, but one thing you can count on Simon Pegg to do is tie up all the loose ends.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Jenny says: 5 Pops
Mystery: 5, Craft: 4, Suspense: 5, Romance: 5, Comedy: 5

Lani says: 5 Pops
Mystery: 5, Craft: 4, Suspense: 5, Romance: 5, Comedy: 5

The Big Lebowski

[audio:/podcasts/pdm15.mp3]
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Story: While trying to get restitution for a ruined rug, the Dude takes on a kidnapping courier job that enmeshes him and his friends in a lethal mystery.  Or something.

Detective:  The Dude (aka Jeffrey Lebowski)

Release Date: March 6, 1988

Writer: Ethan and Joel Cohen

Source:  VERY loosely based on The Big Sleep.

 

Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Jenny: Yes
Lani: Sure.

Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny: No murderer and not a clear antagonist, although that’s what we get for trying to do classic analysis on the Coens.
Lani: There’s no murderer, and there are many antagonists, not all of them related. This is a little murky.

Conflict created by murder?
Jenny: Substitute kidnapping for murder, and yes.
Lani: Conflict is created by the mystery, yes.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny: Well, we know what the Dude knows, but since the Dude is stoned through the whole thing, he’s not exactly looking for clues.
Lani: We know more than the Dude knows – we’re told that she’s fine and she has her pinky toe when we see her car shoot down the freeway. So we’re given some answers which are just handed to us, rather than worked for.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny: The Dude has an insight at the end because of a clue Maude gives him.
Lani: The Dude figures it out, but at that point, there’s nothing at stake really but justice, letting the Big Lebowski know that the Dude knows and does not approve.

All threads pull together at the end?
Jenny: Yes.
Lani: Yes.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Jenny says: ? Pops
Mystery: 3, Craft: 4, Suspense: 4, Romance: N/A, Comedy: 5
This is a Coen Bros. movie so running a classic analysis on it is a waste of time, you really just have to bask in the absurdity.  They’ve done better stories (see Fargo and Raising Arizona), but the Dude is an iconic character (not to mention Walter) so they get props for that.

Lani says: 4 Pops
Mystery: 2, Craft: 4, Suspense: 2, Romance: n/a, Comedy: 5

This is a fun movie. It’s structurally a mess, but it works on its own terms, and for that, it’s fun. I’m not sure there’s a real lesson to be learned here about mystery, which is why we’re here, but as a fun, offbeat, non-traditional story, it’s definitely worth viewing.

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

[audio:/podcasts/pdm14.mp3]
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Story: PI Reardon is hired by a beautiful woman to investigate her father’s death and finds himself in a web of betrayal, violence, and old movies.  That’s noir, Jack.

Detective: Rigby Reardon

Release Date: May 21, 1982

Writer: Carl Reiner, George Gipe, and Steve Martin

Source: Every noir mystery ever filmed.

Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Jenny:   
Lani: Sure.

Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny: Yes, at least he’s the guy sending out henchmen.
Lani: I… suppose? Still not clear on what role he actually played. Usually that’s my fault for not paying close enough attention, but this time, I’m willing to blame the movie.

Conflict created by murder?
Jenny: The story is so badly handled I have no idea why a lot of that stuff was happening.  The plot was just an excuse to be cute with old movies, so there wan’t much coherent conflict.
Lani: The conflict was created by staying true to a gimmick, rather than the story.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny: Well, we knew everything Rigby knew, but Rigby is an idiot.
Lani: Were there clues? If I have to ask that question, I think maybe… not?

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny: Solved using old movie clips.  But yes, he gets to the final scene by deducton.
Lani: He followed clue to clue in a straight line, and he had to put the puzzle pieces together in order to do that so I’d give a provisional yes.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Jenny says: 2Pops
Mystery: 1, Craft: 1, Suspense: 1, Romance: 1, Comedy: 1  I’d give zeros if I could, and for the romance I’d go into nedgative numbers for the date-rape intro.  Bleah.

Lani says: 0 Pops
Mystery: 0, Craft: 0, Suspense: 0, Romance: 0, Comedy: 0