Too Late (2015 film)

Too Late is a 2015 American independent drama film written and directed by Dennis Hauck. The film was shot in 35mm Techniscope in five twenty-two minute individual takes with no hidden cuts or other editing.[2] In the film, a private investigator (John Hawkes) scours the streets of Los Angeles to track down a missing woman from his past. He then finds himself tangled up in sleazy scandal involving strip clubs, petty drug dealers, and missing girls.

Too Late
Too Late (2015 film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDennis Hauck
Written byDennis Hauck
Produced byAlexandra Barreto
Taylor Feltner
Matt Miller
Erich Lochner
CinematographyBill Fernandez
Edited byDavid Heinz
Music byRobert Allaire
Foe Killer Films
Vanishing Angle
Release date
  • June 11, 2015 (2015-06-11) (LAFF)[1]
  • March 18, 2016 (2016-03-18) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film premiered at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival,[3] and had a limited theatrical release beginning in March 2016.[4][5]


The film follows a nonlinear narrative: it consists of five segments which are presented out of chronological order. The five segments are described here in the order they appear in the film:

A young girl, Dorothy Mahler, is hiking on a nature trail near to downtown Los Angeles when two dimwitted street dealers, Jesse and Mathew, turn up by chance. She borrows the phone of one and calls to Mel Samson, a private investigator, whom she had met earlier, saying she needs his help because some bad guys in the city are angry with her. While waiting for Samson to arrive, Dorothy takes ecstasy given to her by the dealers, who have to go but promise to come back for her later. Dorothy begins talking to a seemingly friendly park ranger (Skippy Fontaine). Dorothy and Fontaine chat until we see that there is a dead body nearby. Suddenly Fontaine attacks Dorothy and strangles her. The returning Jesse and Matthew come across her body and believe that she overdosed on the drugs they gave her, and they run away in fear. Samson arrives, too late, to find Dorothy dead.

In the second segment, Samson arrives at the home of sleazy strip club owner Gordy, saying he's been in a car accident and needs to use their phone. He speaks with Gordy's much-younger, neglected wife, Janet, and has a drink. When Samson eventually comes face to face with Gordy and Roger Fontaine, Skippy's father, he reveals his real identity and tells them the motivation for Dorothy's murder: Dorothy had photographs of Gordy receiving oral sex from another stripper, and Gordy arranged Dorothy's murder to keep Janet from finding out. Janet is incensed by Samson's story of her husband's infidelity and retrieves a gun. Provoked by Samson, she shoots Gordy and Roger dead, before (despite Samson's protests) turning the gun on herself. Samson remarks to himself that he needs to get his life together.

The third segment shows what would have been first chronologically. Samson sits in a strip club and is offered a lap dance from a performer named Jill, which he declines. He meets Dorothy and asks her to get a drink with him but she diverts him and leaves without him noticing. Samson goes to a neighbouring club where a friend's band is performing live music. He finds Dorothy waiting for him and she joins him in a photo booth. He plays guitar and performs a song.

The fourth segment shows what would have been last chronologically. Jill is working at a drive-in movie theater, where she's approached by Samson, who has a non-deadly bullet wound in his chest. They discuss their year-long romantic relationship, which ended some time earlier. Samson reveals that he's come to the theater to confront one of its patrons, Skippy Fontaine. He gets into Fontaine's car and points a gun at him but Fontaine manages to stab him in the abdomen with a broken bottle and escape. Jill joins Samson in the car and holds him as he dies. He shows her the “Jilly Bean” tattoo he got in her honour.

In the final segment, Samson goes to see Dorothy's grandmother and mother about taking her case, but he insists on doing it at no cost, out of loyalty to Dorothy. Speaking privately to Dorothy's mother, Mary, Samson reminds her through an allegory that they had had a relationship many years earlier, revealing that Samson is Dorothy's father and had watched her grow up from a distance her whole life. Walking to his car, Samson is attacked and shot in the chest by Jesse and Matthew, who believe Dorothy died from the drugs they gave her and don't want to be implicated in Samson's investigation. They flee, and Samson gets into his car with painful but survivable injuries. Energized by glancing at the photos he and Dorothy took in the photo booth the night they met, he starts his car and drives off.



On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval of 72% based on 32 reviews, with an average rating of 5.73/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Too Late pays homage to its genre inspirations affectionately enough to beg forgiveness for relying on them so heavily."[6] On Metacritic, the film has score of 54 out of 100, based on reviews from 14 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[7]

Ken Jaworowski of The New York Times praised the film, writing "Mr. Hauck’s affection is apparent in every frame, yet outside of an occasionally clunky line or show-offy moment (O.K., sometimes it’s more occasional than just occasionally), he rarely allows it to alter his aim. That aim is to make a modern noir. That aim is true."[8]

Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Hauck, with a strong assist from Bill Fernandez's clever, well-modulated Techniscope lensing, impressively choreographs the movie's continuous takes with a nice balance of intimacy and breadth. Hauck's a talent to watch."[9]

Dennis Harvey of Variety magazine called it a "a supremely self-conscious genre exercise" but praised Hawkes for his performance: "As a spiritually "lost" man searching for a more literally lost woman, Hawkes has just the offhand gravitas required for a noir hero. Yet in a movie where character backstory and plot coherence hardly figure, any emotional realism the actor provides is wholly his invention."[4] Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "With its overt nods to movies, nonlinear structure and purple-tinged dialogue, the self-conscious artifice of Hauck’s first feature can be suffocating. This narrative puzzle should be more fun than it is."[10]


  1. ^ "Stock Photo - LOS ANGELES, CA. June 11, 2015: Robert Forester at the premiere of "Too Late", part of the LA Film Festival, at the Bing Theatre at LACMA. © 2015 Paul Smith / Featureflash". Alamy. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  2. ^ "SF Indiefest: Too Late". Roxie Theater. February 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  3. ^ Strauss, Bob (June 13, 2015). "LA Film Festival Review: 'Too Late' an audacious neo-noir". Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Harvey, Dennis (March 30, 2016). "Film Review: 'Too Late'". Variety.
  5. ^ Paris, Barry (April 21, 2016). "Movie Review: 'Too Late' is an ambitious film noir". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  6. ^ "Too Late (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  7. ^ "Too Late". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  8. ^ Jaworowski, Ken (March 31, 2016). "Review: In 'Too Late,' Imitation Is Sincere Flattery (Published 2016)". The New York Times. p. C9.
  9. ^ Gary Goldstein (March 18, 2016). "Review: 'Too Late' a bold take on detective genre". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  10. ^ Sheri Linden. "'Too Late': LAFF Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 30, 2021.

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