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Poolman – BFI London Film Festival (Film Review)

2 min read

Courtesy of BFI

This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

A detective, stumbles onto a case that will change him, his friends, and the town he lives in. The story has been done to death, yet we keep watching them. The characters make the story and if the central lead is compelling, charming, or corrupt enough, we'll keep on watching. We've grown to enjoy the same old same old and the predictability.  Yet, Poolman, 's directorial debut, was met with far less favourable reactions, despite following this exact ‘winning' formula. But there's still some joy to be had from this everyman turning detective story.

Darren, a pool cleaner with a strong sense of community, stumbles right into the middle of a considerably sized conspiracy involving LA's water supply. Hot on the trail of who he believes is responsible, he finds himself being made the patsy for murder. With the help of his friends, therapist Dianne and out of work director Jack, they're on the case to get to the bottom of what's really going on. Even though no one asked them on the case in the first place!

At its heart, Poolman is about the greater good. Darren is a regular at council meetings bringing up issues that effects everyone and not just about him. His involvement with the case begins because he wants to seek justice about a bus route getting changed. There is unexpected emotional depth, particularly in one of the best scenes, taking place after a drag show of the Golden Girls, where Poolman really tries to shine and break away from the genre conformity.  But ultimately, the story slips back to what you would expect.

Courtesy of BFI

Chris Pine directorial debut efforts aren't as awful as we've been made to believe. The comedic cast of characters are somewhat amusing and create a pseudo family unit which is fun to watch. Pine's character unfortunately will be met with many a comparison to Jeff Bridges' character, The Dude and to The Big Lebowski on a whole, which is a lazy comparison. There are elements that might seem inspired by the Coen Brothers' cult classic, but its Chinatown that is the real inspiration here, minus the incest storyline. Instead inserting corrupt businessmen and the usual femme fatale.

Poolman hits the story beats found in any crime mystery with a few added random surprises. There are genuinely funny moments and the care to certain details, such as Pine's homage to Cary Grant's character in To Catch a Thief, are quite astute. But for all its whimsical nature and predictable outcomes, Poolman is fun but nothing we have not seen before and lacks that originality that could very well have been included. The everyman turning detective might have had its day.