Jon Hamm finally got the leading man role he deserved after Mad Men. It’s a shame it took seven years. Regardless, Confess, Fletch is an absolute treat. Directed by Greg Mottola and working from Gregory McDonald’s novel of the same name, Hamm plays Irwin M. Fletcher, who “used to be an investigative reporter of some repute.” Within the first few minutes, Fletch finds a dead body in the Boston townhouse he’s crashing at and is immediately considered the prime suspect by Sergeant Inspector “Slow-Mo” Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.). We learn the townhouse’s owner Owen Tasserly (John Behlmann) is somewhere in Europe and has an interest in fine art. Meanwhile, Fletch has been tasked with locating nine stolen paintings that belong to a kidnapped rich guy. He’s also dating the rich guy’s daughter (Lorenza Izzo) while being seduced by the rich guy’s wife (Marcia Gay Harden).
This is the kind of breezy mystery that allows for countless scenes featuring standout character actors (John Slattery, Annie Mumolo, and Kyle MacLachlan all please) and multiple nifty locations (the cities of Rome and Boston, a yacht club, etc). Mottola has made a career from subtle comedy moments peppered throughout his best films (The Daytrippers, Superbad, Adventureland) and woefully missing in his lesser (Paul, Keeping Up with the Joneses). The tone throughout Confess, Fletch is refreshingly casual and the dialogue is usually clever. The silliest bits are some of the accents and a twisty plot. Hamm anchors all of it, as funny as he’s teased at being for the last decade or so in supporting roles.
In the ’80s, Chevy Chase and Michael Ritchie made the Fletch character very much their own in the 1985 hit and quite-forgettable 1989 sequel. Hamm’s Fletch is nothing like Chase’s Fletch; it’s a relief. The ’80s character was often broad and biting, much like Chase himself. This updated model is a bit smarter, a bit kinder, still swallowed in sarcasm. Hamm has never looked more comfortable outside of a slick suit and dangled cigarette. Highlights include every single one of his reaction shots and a slew of catch phrases, including a recurring bit where he compliments each Lyft driver with “5 Stars.” (It works better than it reads, trust me.) Izzo is game as the kinda-sorta femme fatale and Lucy Punch excels in a couple of scenes as Tasserly’s stuck-up, estranged wife.
Much has been made of this film’s botched release. It appears that Miramax is hedging their bets a bit—after all, so few comedies are released theatrically anymore. An anemic rollout has mostly been ignored while there appears to be suggestions of a solid showing on VOD. Hamm and Mottola certainly deserved a bit better than this, and one hopes there are enough legs that another Fletch film from this team will be considered by the decision makers. Confess, Fletch may be a relic of a different kind of Hollywood economic model, but there’s still time to band together to bring it back into the light.
Confess, Fletch is now in theaters and on VOD.