fri 06/12/2019

Knives Out review - marvellous murder mystery | reviews, news & interviews

Knives Out review - marvellous murder mystery

Knives Out review - marvellous murder mystery

Daniel Craig heads a classy ensemble as a Southern sleuth on the hunt for a country house killer

CSI:KFC. Daniel Craig, Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan smell a rat in 'Knives Out'

The world’s most successful mystery writer is found dead on the morning after his 85th birthday. In attendance in his Gothic pile are his bickering family, each of whom might wish him dead, and a colourful detective ready to determine whodunnit.  

We’ve been here before, of course. The good news is that writer/director Rian Johnson’s homage to the Agatha Christie style murder mystery is no dutiful but dull period carbon copy, but a gloriously entertaining, modern-day riff. Poirot and Miss Marple were never as much fun as this. 

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a supremely wealthy fellow who has come to regret spoiling his clan, and so uses his birthday party to tear up the cheque book. The disappointed include haughty daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her cheating husband Richard (Don Johnson), wimpy son Walt (Michael Shannon), swindling daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) and grandson Ransom (Chris Evans), the black sheep of the family for the simple reason that he doesn’t even pretend to work. The next morning the old man is found with his throat cut and the knife in his hand. The local cops think suicide. But they are accompanied by Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), “the last of the gentleman sleuths”, who has been summoned to the house by a mystery client. And Blanc suspects foul play. 

The scene is set for the customary interviews, a follow-up victim or two and some delicious bitching, some aimed at the detective himself, whose exaggerated Southern demeanour brings Ransom to quip: “CSI: KFC?” The showboating Blanc can seem a little foolish. It’s certainly a mistake to look to Harlan’s nurse Marta (Ana de Armas) as the Watson to his Holmes, since she knows a lot more about her boss's death than she’s letting on. 

Johnson has a knack for honouring a genre while making it his own, whether it’s hardboiled crime drama (Brick), time-travelling sci-fi (Looper) or classic fantasy (Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Woven into this film’s endlessly twisty plot is a very contemporary critique of American have and have-nots; one running gag sees each of the politically incorrect Thrombeys mistake Ana’s Latin American roots. And amid the meticulously designed country house eccentricity is a very pointy nod to Game of Thrones

While many of the all-star casts assembled for such films sit around with nothing to do, Johnson ensures that every one of his ensemble has an opportunity to eat a little scenery. Clearly enjoying himself away from 007’s suave straitjacket, Craig offers a delightfully curious performance with a bold touch of Columbo in his detective’s make-up. De Armas (pictured above) shines as a decent young woman in a terrible jam, Evans adds devilish vim as the playboy and that old fox Plummer is great value as the bestseller who couldn’t have written a better ending – for himself – if he’d tried.

Johnson ensures that every one of his ensemble has an opportunity to eat a little scenery

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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