[Too Late Blues] plunges us again into the harsh and blistering world of Shadows. (p. 29)
If the focus of Shadows was rootlessness that of Too Late Blues is cruelty. The characters constantly turn on each other with a nagging, ranging spite. (pp. 29-30)
The story is neatly constructed, the dialogue so sharp and biting as to be naturalistic rather than natural, the images are less blemished, gritty and eloquent than those of Shadows. Still, many scenes seem improvised, the compositions and staging informal, even haphazard. The film sweeps from a casually discursive style to banging emotional scenes which combine a convincing notation of detail with almost grossly effective situations … and reach a quite exceptional intensity….
The film generally has many errors of continuity, tone, and nuance. Often the crescendo of feelings seem disrupted…. The network of friendships arising in the band as a community, and the creative theme, are assumed rather than explored….
The band's final reconciliation … is phoney in conception and weakened by the director's attempt to restore authenticity by a laconic, sombre style. The "shaped" story and the discursive scenes sometimes gell dissatisfyingly. (p. 30)
Too Late Blues supplements, rather than repeating, Shadows, although I would like to see Cassavetes next time move further from his Shadows stamping ground of bars, parties, quick lays and slogging matches. I think he could learn something from the emotional subtlety of Chayefsky's underestimated The Middle of the Night and from Renoir's ability to combine improvisational freshness with a mellower variegation of moods. This film deserves very severe criticism by the highest standards, and one can't criticise away its power and drive. (pp. 30-1)
Raymond Durgnat, "New Films: 'Too Late Blues'" (© copyright Raymond Durgnat 1961; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 8, No. 3, December, 1961, pp. 29-31.