Review: A film noir fan falls into a tedious trap in ‘Out of the Blue’

two people kiss on a couch with a window to the water behind them
Ray Nicholson and Diane Kruger in “Out of the Blue.”
(Quiver Distribution)
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“Out of the Blue” is so enamored of film noir tropes that the lead character is not just an ex-con, he’s also a librarian who spends nights watching Turner Classic Movies. It’s never quite clear if the movie he’s actually in is a straight-faced parody or an undercooked homage to those black-and-white staples, but there’s no question writer-director Neil LaBute’s effort doesn’t catch fire.

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The action is set in the sleepy New England town of Twin Oaks (one of several deliberate references to “The Postman Always Rings Twice”), where so little happens that the few residents ever charged with a crime are whispered about like minor celebrities. One of them, Connor (Ray Nicholson), is the librarian, who meets frustrated trophy wife Marilyn (Diane Kruger) when he’s out for a run and she’s out for a swim. Their awkward flirtations quickly turn into regular sexual encounters — complete with clumsy exchanges (“You have such a beautiful face” ... “I’m glad you like it”) that only remind us how far away LaBute is from his late ‘90s heyday as a playwright and indie film provocateur. Though it’s not quite accurate to say anything happens quickly in a movie that’s filled with incessant, smug title cards such as “The Next Tuesday” and “Two or Three Weeks Later” marking the passage of time.

Marilyn, whose married surname Chambers seems to nod to both the adult film star and “Postman” once again, doesn’t have to work too hard to convince Connor she’d be better off without her husband. And since Connor’s only other apparent human relationships are with his parole officer (Hank Azaria, working overtime in an oddly aggressive role) and a perky Annie Hall-styled co-worker (Gia Crovatin), he falls deeper and deeper into whatever web Marilyn is spinning, proving he’s learned nothing from TCM.


A great femme fatale can elevate any noir, but the talented Kruger isn’t given much to work with here. It’s mostly up to relative newcomer Nicholson (yep, he’s the son of Hollywood icon Jack, whose distinguished credits of course include the 1981 version of “Postman”) to carry the film’s admittedly light load. After smaller roles in “Promising Young Woman” and “Licorice Pizza,” he shows flashes of leading man potential.

'Out of the Blue'

Rating: R, for sexual content, language and some violence

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Playing: Lumiere Cinema, Beverly Hills; also available on VOD