In the new TV movie The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A., James Garner’s private eye Jim Rockford is glued to his television, and we quickly realize this mystery is set during the recent Los Angeles riots. As Rockford watches parts of his city burn, he’s supposed to be solving the murder of an elderly movie star. The case affords lots of interaction between stolid, old-fashioned Rockford and flashy, fad-crazy Hollywood. The script, by Juanita L. Bartlett, is particularly shrewd in its portrayal of the dead movie star’s vapid screenwriter son (Geoffrey Nauffts).
You can see where the plot’s headed early on in I Still Love L.A., and the effort to impose current events onto Rockford’s mystery format is sometimes strained. But there’s still great pleasure to be had from watching Garner in what is arguably his best role. His Rockford remains a complicated guy: honest yet always on the lookout for a big-money case, softhearted yet pessimistic. He’s a literate detective, too, at one point explaining the difference between Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
Joanna Cassidy shows up as Halley ”Kit” Kittredge, a woman Rockford has married and divorced since we last saw him; she’s a tough lawyer who puts him onto this case. Much missed is the late Noah Beery Jr. as Jim’s irascible dad, Rocky, but everyone else is here, including Joe Santos as grumpy police detective Dennis Becker and Stuart Margolin as Jim’s shady pal Angel. In the TV movie’s funniest, bleakest joke, Angel takes part in a little looting himself, as Rockford watches him on the local news. B