Directed by: Greg Mottola
Distributed by: Paramount
Written by Patrick Hao
Is Jon Hamm a movie star? That has been the question perplexing audiences and Hollywood executives since the actor made his breakthrough on “Mad Men.” In “Mad Men,” Hamm plays a movie star-type role, one in which he has to exude presence. It does help that his square jaw and burly chest are reminiscent of movie stars of the golden age of Hollywood. But, there has been no better evidence of Hamm not being a movie star than “Confess, Fletch.”
I.M. Fletch is a misanthropic gumshoe, a product of the post-Vietnam cynicism written by the original author Gregory McDonald. That cynicism was perfect for Chevy Chase and his comic persona, the start of the Michael Ritchie adaptation in 1985. Now in 2022, Hamm seems all wrong for the Fletch character. There is no doubt that he could play a detective. He has the build for it and, as “Mad Men” shows, looks good in a fedora and a suit. But, his power as an actor comes from a deep sense of sincerity, especially through his empathetic eyes. That is why it worked for a character like Don Draper, whose bravado is a front for something deeper, and why he has excelled at playing the buffoon in comedies like “30 Rock.” As Fletch, however, Hamm is miscast. Everything from his sarcastic quips and seemingly blase attitude to the events around him, feels false coming from Hamm.
The film enters in media res to Fletch finding a dead body in a townhouse that he is staying in. When he is met by the two detectives after he calls the police (played by Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri), they immediately suspect him as the primary suspect. Using his investigative journalism skills, Fletch tries to prove his innocence while the plot becomes intermingled with Fletch’s dalliance with an Italian heiress (Lorenza Izzo) whose father was kidnapped and a stolen Picasso painting. The film is littered with big performances from actors like Annie Mumolo, Kyle MacLachlan, John Slattery, and Marcia Gay Harden.
What has all the makings of a fun time comes off as kind of a slog. This iteration of Fletch is more grounded than the 80’s version and has a much more serious tone. Yet, when placed in opposition to the broad characters, it becomes kind of a total whiplash. Greg Mottola, the director of films like “The Daytrippers” and “Superbad,” never quite gets a handle on the noirish tone he is obviously going for.
More importantly, you begin to wonder why it is necessary to make a Fletch movie now. He is such a product of his time, one that could work in the sweet cross-section of National Lampoon fans and the serious Philip Marlowe revival of the 1970s. Right now, there seems to be a fervor for the pastiche of murder mysteries – one that invites the ludicrous accents of Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc in “Knives Out” or Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot. Fletch’s cynicism feels out of touch in 2022.
Or maybe it all comes down to the fact that Hamm should not be playing Fletch at all. His earnestness seems more suited for a Marlowe type. Former casting choices in the long series of failed reboots included Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Zach Braff, and Jason Sudekis. It took Miramax 25 years to finally reboot Fletch. Maybe they jumped the gun a bit.
“Confess, Fletch” Trailer