Review: Too Late – Chattanooga Film Festival 2016 – Film Dispenser

Film April 4, 2016 Scott Phillips
Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every Fall.

Chattanooga Film Festival Review

Read all of our coverage of CFF here

At face value, Too Late, the debut feature film from writer/director Dennis Hauck sounds like a gimmick. It’s comprised of five scenes that are 20 or so minutes in length with each segment being one long, unbroken take. As if that’s not showy enough, the five segments aren’t presented in chronological order as a linear narrative. Add in the fact that the film is shot in 35mm and can only be shown in 35mm, and Too Late starts to sound like a big loud drumroll, like a self-important auteur announcing his arrival on the scene.

There’s just one problem with all of that surmising: Too Late doesn’t play like a stunt. It’s a well-conceived, well-executed character drama dressed up in the tropes of a compelling Los Angeles neo-noir private eye film. It is unlike anything you’ve seen before, but in a most satisfying way.

Given the fragmented way that the film is presented, focusing on a plot synopsis or intelligible, chronological discussion would ruin the latter portions of the film. Suffice it to say, that a young woman working as a stripper (Crystal Reed) goes missing, and Sampson, a private investigator (John Hawkes) is brought in by the family to find the missing girl. Given its mosaic structure, the audience knows what happened to the missing girl within the first fifteen minutes of the film.  The remainder of Too Late serves to flesh out the before’s and after’s of the opening events. Each successive segment redefines what has come before until the final pieces of the puzzle snap into place in its final segment.

If there’s a knock on Too Late, it’s the frequent use of spoken exposition. It’s hard to employ the old maxim “show, don’t tell” if you only have five scenes to cover all of your narrative ground.  Consequently, there are several moments where Sampson discusses events that we never see in order to explain the significance of what we have seen. But, give credit where credit is due. Too Late handles those talky moments of exposition with such sure-handedness that they don’t stick out like you might think.

John Hawkes has gone from being the best part of average films to making the finest of contributions to really good films (The Sessions, Martha Marcy May Marlene).  In this instance, he’s the best thing about a superior film. Dennis Hauck wrote the part of Sampson expressly for Hawkes even though he hadn’t committed to the project, and it took several years for Hauck to convince the actor to take the part. And the audience is thankful for Hauck’s persistence. With his angular face and soulful eyes, Hawkes conveys more information with a look than most actors can with a spoken monologue. He was born to play a private eye, and he gives Sampson more depth and motivation than we are used to seeing in the average crime film.

Then again, this isn’t your average crime film. Too Late is not only a stellar genre exercise, but it succeeds even more as a human drama that exposes the frailties of its characters and contemplates the toll of living with the decisions they’ve made. There are no immediate plans to release Too Late to VOD or other digital platforms. It’s traveling the festival circuit in its intended 35mm format. Seek it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Read all of our coverage of CFF here

Scott Phillips

The Movie Isle

Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.

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