The L.A. noir “The Queen of Hollywood Blvd.” justifies its existence with one remarkable scene. The late, great character actor Michael Parks — in one of his final performances — pops up briefly as a junkie arms dealer, who shares a moment of quiet commiseration with exhausted strip club proprietor Mary (Rosemary Hochschild) as they listen to an old record.
Writer-director Orson Oblowitz — son of Hochschild and cult filmmaker Michael Oblowitz — weaves these kind of richly textured odes to Los Angeles’ crumbling past into an otherwise flat crime story. The movie’s artier components are imbued with enough heart and poetry to hold the picture together — just barely — through the more tedious stretches.
Set during Mary’s 60th birthday, “The Queen of Hollywood Blvd.” is a tale of regret and retribution, in which an old mob connection (played by Roger Guenveur Smith) returns to collect a debt, holding Mary’s grown son until she does a job for him as repayment. Meanwhile, the arrival of an underage runaway named Grace (Ana Mulvoy Ten) reminds Mary of what she values.
Oblowitz gives the sequences with violent thugs and a gun-toting Mary the same visual flourish he brings to the atmospheric “end of an era” scenes; but that makes them feel only slower and duller. This film is better when it’s hanging out with the heroine at her AA meeting or just lovingly watching her walk through the seedy part of the city … like a living landmark.
‘The Queen of Hollywood Blvd’
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Starts Oct. 12, Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood