Stephen Frear’s debut feature (produced by Albert Finney’s own company) is part pastiche and part traditional thriller, but despite its parody approach, Gumshoe works surprisingly well and comes off as an affectionate tribute to The Maltese Falcon and the hardboiled noir films of yore.
Liverpudlian bingo-caller and aspiring stand-up comic, Eddie Ginley (Albert Finney), fantasises about becoming a private eye in the style of Raymond Chandler’s gumshoe Philip Marlowe.
Eddie’s level-headed brother (Frank Finlay) and ex-girlfriend (Billie Whitelaw) try to talk him out of it but he inadvertently stumbles across a real-life murder mystery.
Acting out his daydream, he half-jokingly advertises his services as a private investigator in the Echo and in a little while he’s involved in a complex mystery when hired by the mysterious Fat Man (George Silver).
After receiving a package containing a photo of a young woman (Carolyn Seymour), a gun and £1,000, Eddie becomes immersed in an extraordinarily convoluted mystery from Liverpool to London involving drug smuggling, gun-running and African politics.
Special mention goes to Bill Dean for his splendid performance as the sax-playing bingo club manager with his own dreams of showbiz glory.