A film review by Craig J. Koban November 13, 2022


2022, R, 98 mins.

Jon Hamm as Irwin 'Fletch' Fletcher  /  Marcia Gay Harden as The Countess  /  Kyle MacLachlan as Horan  /  Lorenza Izzo as Angela  /  John Slattery as Frank  /  Ayden Mayeri as Griz  /  Anna Osceola as Larry  /  Annie Mumolo as Eve  /  Roy Wood Jr. as Detective Monroe

Directed by Greg Mottola  /  Written by Mottola and Zev Borow, based on the novel by Gregory McDonald



There was a time when I thought that I'd never see another cinematic adventure featuring Gregory MacDonald's literary creation of the smoothly sarcastic investigative reporter Irwin Maurice "Fletch" Fletcher.  

The mystery writer penned eleven Fletch novels in total, and despite the character's popularity there have only been two films based on them, 1985's FLETCH (which was taken from the first novel and featured, for my money, star Chevy Chase's greatest role and performance) and the sequel four years later in FLETCH LIVES (easily the lesser of the two and not based on any of MacDonald's previous work).  I loved the first film's fusing of detective noir with screwball comedy, which also harnessed Chase's obvious comedic gifts to great effect.  But after the lack of success with FLETCH LIVES the film franchise laid dormant for decades, despite the efforts of filmmakers like Kevin Smith to resurrect the character in the late 90s (he came close) and stars as far ranging as Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, and Zach Braff being eyed for the role in a proposed reboot. 

Flashforward two-plus decades and - as miraculous as it seems - we now have a new movie with the loveable smartass sleuth in CONFESS, FLETCH, which - after a mostly below the industry radar production and launch - has come out 33 years after FLETCH LIVES, but for this third outing for Mr. Fletcher we have (a) a new star and director (for obvious reasons), (b) a slight change in tone and (c) a story that - like the first FLETCH - is actually appropriated from one of MacDonald's novels (the1976 one of the same name), albeit with modern day updates to the material.  Long gone is Chevy Chase and pinch hitting for him is the multiple Emmy Award nominated and winning Jon Hamm, best known for his bravura work on TV's MAD MEN.  He may initially seem like an ill fit for the role that Chase fit like a glove, but Hamm is an underrated actor that can dial into drama and comedy with effortless ease and he makes this version of Fletch uniquely his own while honoring what his predecessor did in the past.  We also have SUPERBAD and ADVENTURELAND director Greg Mottola behind the camera, and he does a good job of making this third franchise entry feel like a suitable spiritual sequel despite not being a direct canon follow-up.  And like every FLETCH film, CONFESS, FLETCH fuses mystery and comedic elements, the latter of which works better than the former here.  The detective story this go-around isn't all that compelling, but Hamm's rascally charm and the madcap and mischievous  journey his Fletch takes here ultimately won me over.   

Compellingly, Fletch is no longer an investigative journalist as CONFESS, FLETCH opens (he now dabbles in magazine writing) and has returned to Boston from Rome, and upon his arrival he crashes at the condo of his Italian girlfriend, Angela (Lorenzo Izzo).  Unfortunately, Fletch makes a startling discovery as he's about to settle in for the night: a dead body.  Always cool under pressure (and with a deadpan zinger for every occasion), Fletch very quickly and responsibly calls the police and Detectives Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and his new trainee in Griz (Ayden Mayeri) arrive and seem very keen on pinning the L.A. Laker hat wearing writer for the murder.  Fletch continues to calmly maintain his innocence, but  the detectives tell him to not leave the city (or fly back to Rome) while an ongoing murder investigation is happening.  Fletch agrees to this, but that doesn't stop the old investigative reporter juices from flowing once again and he launches his own mission to pick up clues, discover secrets, and clear his name (oh, also infused in this narrative is a subplot regarding Angela's father's priceless paintings going missing and she now needs one of his Picasso's to help free her dad from a criminal's clutches, which prompted Fletch to return to America in the first place). On his journey Fletch makes contact with a colorful assortment of characters, like a rich germaphobe art dealer Horan (Kyle MacLachlan) and Angela's weirdly eccentric mother, The Countess (Marcia Gay Harden).   



One of the humorous pleasures of CONFESS, FLETCH is witnessing the detectives' incredulous response to the cool as a cucumber Fletch, who never seems to break a sweat even while facing intense interrogation from them.  Worse and more awkward yet, Monroe and Griz don't take kindly to Fletch putting himself out there to do his own detective work to clear his name and they take it as an affront to their own crime solving skills (well, they're mostly offended because of how quickly Fletch picks up on tips and clues before them).  In pure Fletchian fashion, he often impersonates fake personalities to score time with witnesses and other potential suspects (minus the goofy disguises that typified Chase's run on the character).  He has a side-splitting meeting with a local neighbor named Eve (a very funny Annie Mumolo), who couldn't possibly be a killer because she seems so damn oblivious to just about everything around her (that, and she's frighteningly accident prone when it comes to hurting herself).  I especially liked Harden as Angela's thick accented Italian mother and Lucy Punch showing up briefly as an annoyingly on-brand interior designer that's more hilariously dumb than she knows.  MacLachlan also scores some low-key laughs as his uber rich, but uber paranoid about cleanliness art dealer.  The most juicy character of them all is Fletch's former newspaper boss (holy crap, MAD MEN's John Slattery!), who's now a disgruntled editor that hates work-from-home reporters and treats his ex-employee like a turd that won't flush.  I gotta admit, seeing Hamm and Slattery share the screen again as this combustible pair (and providing us with an impromptu MAD MEN reunion) was a giddy treat. 

And, yes, what of Fletch himself?  He retains all of the idiosyncratic characteristics of Chase's version in terms of not being the most coordinated or professional of sleuths, but part of what makes him such a superb detective is in how just about everyone he comes in contact with underestimates him at every corner.  Fletch isn't afraid to get his hands dirty during any investigation, not to mention that he has a definitive skill in making people trust him (even when he's impersonating someone) to get solid leads that he needs to crack cases.  In the process of these false levels of trust that Fletch gives his subjects, they always seem to amusingly fold like a deck of cards and either let their guards down too much or inadvertently spill the beans, so to speak.  And, yeah, Fletch's handling of the cops is a drool delight as well (Wood Jr. and Mayeri are crucial here playing the straight man/woman to Hamm's verbal shenanigans).  Director Greg Mottola here deserves some credit too for finding a happy middle ground between the film's wildly divergent tones; sometimes Fletch's antics are borderline silly, whereas other times he gets into grim and dangerous spots that could cost him his life.  CONFESS, FLETCH is as breezy as the previous FLETCH entries, but is perhaps a bit more laid back and understated as a comedy, which suits Hamm as an actor quite fine. 

I've neglected to talk much about Hamm, but I will give him full credit for being a better on-screen funnyman than many have given him credit for over the years.  Taking on a long dormant franchise and over from one of the more successful comedic actors of the 80s is no easy task, but Hamm acclimates himself finely to the challenge of embodying this man's roguish penchant for getting into trouble with minimal effort and making others look foolish in the process of trying to clear his name.  Hamm (who also co-produced and famously lowered his salary just to get necessary reshoots done, a commendable move) doesn't play up the character to the levels of infectious buffoonery of Chase (as mentioned before, gone are the weird costumes and physical pratfalls) and instead he lets his natural charisma and fine sardonic wit rule the day.  CONFESS, FLETCH sometimes goes from preposterous to grim at the drop of a dime, but Hamm remains the production's consistent stalwart anchor.  When his trademark dexterous zingers fly they land with a satisfying authority here, which is what makes the Fletch character (one that dryly and sometimes obnoxiously talks his way out of problems) so agreeable.  

The main elephant in the room of CONFESS, FLETCH is that the ongoing mysteries in the story (and the smorgasbord of suspects, clues, motivations, etc.) doesn't really end up being all that intriguing in the large scheme of things.  We get obligatory false starts, roadblocks with suspects, red herrings and plot twists, and so forth, but very little of it adds up to very much in the way of sizeable tension or suspense.  Mottola (who previously worked with Hamm on the underrated KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES) lets Hamm and the other actors do most of the film's heavy hitting, and he does - as previously stated - harness the film's seesaw-like nature well, but I would have appreciated his overall direction not being so stiff and flat.  No FLETCH film needs to be an aggressively stylized affair, mind you, but visually and aesthetically CONFESS, FLETCH is pretty a pretty bland, journeymen-esque affair that looks like it could have been directed by anyone (and, man, where's the joyous Harold Faltermeyer synth-heavy Fletch theme?).  At the end of the day, does CONFESS, FLETCH work as a worthy FLETCH installment (or rebootquel)?  For sure.  It channels the aura of Chase's films without lazily copying and pasting from them wholesale.  The always mocking those under him spirit of Irwin Fletcher lovingly remains here, and Hamm is, again, a resoundingly good fit for this character.  This film gets what makes Fletch tick.  No more is this apparent when Fletch makes a call for information to his old boss in one sly scene, to which Slattery's crusty and suspicious editor first answers with a "What the f--k do you want?"  

Ah, yes...welcome back Mr. Fletcher.  I missed you.  

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