Director: Noah Buschel
Stars: Corey Stoll, Marin Ireland
3 (out of 5) Globes
The original film noirs were low- (or even no-) budget B-movies, which is to say they weren’t too far, price-wise, from independent films. The new “Glass Chin” is one that straddles both types. It’s indebted to old tales of underworld fatalism done on the cheap, such as Robert Wise’s real-time “The Set-Up,” which also features boxing as a backdrop. “Glass Chin” is so minimalist it sometimes looks like it cost as much as “The Set-Up,” and not even adjusted for inflation. At one point a Madison Square Garden fight is depicted solely as an actor sitting in the back of a cab listening to it on the radio.
This isn’t a liability; “Glass Chin” is committed to being stripped down. Much of the story — concerning a former champ, Bud Gordon (Corey Stoll), driven to get in deep with the underworld — is told in single long takes. Sometimes characters’ heads are cut off, though more often they’re standing or sitting in place, dryly rattling off sarcastic hard boiled dialogue that, at its spikiest, wouldn’t be out of place in a William Monahan script, like “The Departed.” Bud is a longtime jerk once used to pushing people around verbally as well as physically. But he’s fallen on hard times, and he finds himself loaning himself out to some shady types, including an equally wiseass heavy played by Billy Crudup.
Most of “Glass Chin” is comprised of one-on-one dialogue scenes — verbal duets with punchy rhythms. It’s an homage to the past but very rooted in today’s styles. This is surely the only neo-noir where one henchman (a very funny Yul Vazquez) threatens someone by saying, “You’ve gotta get your Twitter followers up.” It’s a tough and angry film, with the tone of one of the New York punk songs that occasionally hit the soundtrack. (At one point David Johansen swings by, right before a New York Dolls song gets a spin on a car radio.) But it’s also comfortable turning absurdist and silly, as though writer-director Noah Buschel (“The Missing Person”) wanted us to lower our guard, maybe start thinking that these cartoonish gangster won’t actually things tough, or worse, for our anti-hero.
“Glass Chin,” though, is a dedicated noir nod, even when it’s doing little but letting great actors share a scene together. Stoll is a chameleonic character actor: he was a fatalistically romantic Hemingway in “Midnight in Paris” and currently plays the lead on “The Strain” while decked in a distractingly amusing hairpiece. In real life he’s a bulletheaded lug with a face both tough and befuddled. He’s an ideal modern noir bad good guy, as good with the tough men as he is comfortably snarly with his irritated girlfriend, very well played by Marin Ireland. The two characters even get a bittersweet Last Night on the Town right out of the saddest movie ever made, Leo McCarey’s “Make Way for Tomorrow,” before the grim noir stylings return. “Glass Chin” is compact and stripped down, but it contains multitudes.