Raymond Chandler as sleuth: that's the gimmick in this half-intriguing, half-strained period piece--which offers more Hollywood-studio atmosphere than suspenseful plotting or credible character-portraiture. Circa 1946, Chandler is boozing again; his elderly wife Cissy is ailing; his career as a novelist seems to be shelved. And his latest screenwriting effort (The Blue Dahlia) is being undermined by the Paramount execs, the U.S. Navy (they object to the script's sailor-psycho-killer), and, above all, Billy Wilder--seen here, in unconvincing caricature, as a nasty charlatan. So, tipsy and vengeful, Chandler joins with young writer Corky McGrath in a scheme to embarrass Wilder by having a corpse appear at an important studio conference. Soon, however, Chandler has two bodies on his hands: McGrath turns up dead alongside the morgue item. Whodunit? To find out before the bodies are discovered, Chandler wanders around L.A., sure that the motive involves a shady urban-renewal project that McGrath (a part-time journalist) was seeking to expose. And other familiar hard-boiled themes lurch by before the groaningly implausible wind-up. More like the foolish, name-dropping pastiches by Stuart Kaminsky (the Toby Peters series) than the genuine biographical evocation of Joe Gores' Hammett: spotty entertainment for Chandler devotees--who'll do far better with the MacShane biography and the Selected Letters.