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Movie review: 'Confess, Fletch' breathes fresh new life into mystery franchise

Fletch (Jon Hamm) is on the case in "Confess, Fletch." Photo courtesy of Miramax
1 of 5 | Fletch (Jon Hamm) is on the case in "Confess, Fletch." Photo courtesy of Miramax

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Before Chevy Chase portrayed Fletch in 1985, Fletch was a series of mystery novels by Gregory Mcdonald. Confess, Fletch, in theaters and video-on-demand Friday, is a modern adaptation of the second novel that gives the irreverent detective a whole new lease on life.

Irwin M. Fletcher (Jon Hamm) arrives at a home he's renting in Boston to find a dead body. Even though he called the police, detectives Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and Griz (Ayden Mayeri) consider him a suspect.

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Fletch was in town to investigate what happened to the paintings of his Italian girlfriend, Angela (Lorenza Izzo). So Fletch takes on a dual investigation while evading the detectives.

Hamm inhabits the role from the first scene. The irreverent banter fits him like Fletch's lucky Lakers cap.

The film even interrupts Fletch's introduction irreverently when Monroe cuts off his explanation of his nickname. Fletch's cooperation with the detectives has a nice passive-aggressive streak, too.

The script by Zev Borow and director Greg Mottola nails the banter of quick-witted sleuths. Hamm keeps Fletch one level removed from engaging with any suspect or authority figure.

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Fletch will ask questions and comment on wacky characters, but won't show his hand. He's giving suspects enough rope with which to hang themselves, but saving his conclusions for the reveal at the end.

When Fletch evades the detectives' tail, he plays it like Bugs Bunny, a lovable scamp you can't catch. Or perhaps a closer cinematic analogy would be Axel Foley.

The book was published in 1976, nearly a decade before the first film adaptation. The 2022 film seamlessly updates Fletch to a modern world in which Instagram, digital media and the pandemic exist, but they don't dominate the story any more than they dominate average everyday life.

One of Fletch's assets is his ability to go undercover. He doesn't use outlandish disguises like Chase did in his films, but he puts on voices and plays the character of whichever alias he's assuming.

Confess, Fletch is rated R and has just enough R-rated language to earn it. Fletch doesn't need F-bombs, but his editor Frank (John Slattery,) and a few other suspects do.

Confess, Fletch should be the start of more cinematic mysteries starring Hamm. Since the writing and performance are the biggest special effects in Fletch, it can hopefully maintain a low-cost franchise with high rewards.

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Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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