The Orchard          1 hour 30 minutes

If you like film noir, here’s one about an old school detective on the American Side of Niagara Falls with a high tech twist involving the genius inventor Tesla. Will you be able to guess who’s got the MacGuffin? We interviewed Actor Greg Stuhr and Director Jenna Ricker who wrote the script and shot it in Buffalo.

Why there? Stuhr says “It’s really having to do with wanting to shoot in Buffalo where I grew up and thinking Buffalo is a great setting for a detective story cause it’s kind of out of time  and it’s kind of this throwback feel.” It’s also where Tesla lived for a time working on harnessing energy, forming theories on teleportation and more, but at the turn of the 20th century! Tesla was way ahead his time. And they liked juxtaposing him with low-tech, Charlie Paczynski, a detective who smokes too much and doesn’t even carry a cell phone.

Ricker says Buffalo was the first city to be electrified and also had huge grain silos that were architectural marvels. They are still standing.  And then there are those powerful Niagara Falls. She thinks it’s the perfect place to shoot this film or any film because of the history, architecture, landmarks and ambiance. “As Charlie goes deeper and things get bigger,… legitimately in the frame, things get bigger.” They get drawn more and more to the Falls.

Stuhr and Ricker are surprised at the actors they were able to get to play heavies against character for their project. Stuhr worked on Broadway in a play with Matthew Broderick a few years ago and they became friends. Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Magnificent Seven) came in from London for his part as the “man with white hair.” Stuhr was really excited about getting to act with Vaughn. “He was in The Magnificent Seven!”  Ricker says “For me it was a lot of fun because these were actors I had watched in films who that completely formed my film language.”

And Ricker says they were thrilled to get Camilla Bell, Alicja Bachleda and Janeane Garofalo for the film and impressed that they all liked and stuck to the script.

She and Stuhr love film noir and found parallels to their film in their research. They say they had fun researching and taking off on some of the old film noir classics by Hitchcock and other filmmakers, like Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, and Orson Welles’ TheThird Man.

They also thought their main character, seedy detective, Charlie, who happens to be Polish, fit the throwback style of the town perfectly. He’s kind of bumbler who is blackmailing cheating husbands to make money when he comes across a plot to steal a Tesla invention that Serbian agents are also trying to track down. That’s the MacGuffin. Charlie gets involved on a personal level after a murder. But Stuhr describes Charlie’s clueless style like a bull in a china shop.

But shooting in Buffalo was a challenge. Stuhr says it was hard for him running around the massive grain elevators during the big chase. And there were other problems to deal with shooting at the Falls. Stuhr says their time was restricted to early morning after the sun rose and before the tourists showed up at 8am. And the water! Ricker says having to move the equipment taking the elevators to the top and bottom of the falls to get their shots was hard, plus drying off the cameras and actors to reset every take. They shot the film in 23 days and had a different location every day.

Is this worth your bucks? This new detective film that is kind of an homage to film noir and there are a lot of references some of the classics. It’s pretty courageous to make a film like this seriously instead of as a spoof. Stuhr says the actors were serious about it, too. He says they were “gamers,” willing to go for it. We thought and they others, too, have suggested that this could turn into a TV series. There are enough complicated story lines and characters. That goes for the film too. At times, we thought the acting was a little stilted and mechanical. You have to pay attention to keep up with the clues. That’s the fun of this genre. This film deserves to come out of the dark. We think you should see it. Tesla might like it, too.

Interview with Greg Stuhr and Jenna Ricker