CINEMA: THREE L.A. COPS, ONE PHILIP MARLOWE

Try to imagine this: a mainstream American movie, rife with violent and often murderous behavior, yet so densely plotted, so richly peopled, that you can't summarize it in a sentence. Or a paragraph. Or several of them. Imagine, as well, a film set in the exotic past--Los Angeles in the noirish '50s--that tends to make the mass audience skittish. And imagine too a cast of terrific actors that lacks the reassuring presence of a megastar who can, as they say, open a picture.

Now try to imagine the pitch meeting for this project. Or the nervous marketing meetings that follow. Better...

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