Sunday, March 01, 2020

"Knives Out": one-paragraph review

"Knives Out" is a 2019 mystery-dramedy in a whodunit vein. Directed by Rian Johnson, it stars an ensemble cast of heavy hitters: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Noah Segan, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell (who used to be known as Jaeden Lieberher), and Christopher Plummer. Rich author-patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Plummer) dies soon after celebrating his 85th birthday. Two police officers are assigned to the case (Stanfield and Segan), with private investigator Benoit Blanc (Craig; the name "Benoît Blanc" is French for Benedict White, with Benedict coming from the Latin for "blessed"—so, "blessed white [man]") along for the ride as a Sherlock-style consultant. Several family members have reasons to murder old Harlan, but Blanc leans hard on Harlan's nurse and caregiver, Marta Cabrera (de Armas), who is unable to tell lies without vomiting reflexively. Part self-aware comedy (there's a "Clue" joke in the first reel), part drama, "Knives Out" showcases most of the ensemble cast's talent, with few characters reduced to quick-cameo status. The movie seems to reveal Harlan's cause of death fairly early on, but the story doesn't quite follow the usual mystery-movie template, thus setting the audience up for a surprise or two. That said, I found the movie's outcome at least somewhat predictable. It was a fun ride overall, despite some pious attempts at shoehorning in a bit of liberal sanctimony about immigrants and ethnicity. On the whole, though, I didn't find "Knives Out" to be all that memorable. Sure, it had its good points: Daniel Craig once again sports a strange Southern accent that's somewhat toned down from the one he used in "Logan Lucky," and the accent adds a measure of bizarrerie to the proceedings. Ana de Armas does a fine job carrying most of the scenes herself, but the rest of the cast does yeoman's work as well, with Christopher Plummer notably giving a surprisingly heartfelt performance in a series of flashbacks. Despite those points in its favor, though, I was a bit disturbed that this was Don Johnson's third time playing a vile white racist (previous roles include his white-supremacist Chief Crawford in HBO's "Watchmen" and his slave-owning Big Daddy in "Django Unchained"). I also didn't think the "subversive" story structure was all that subversive in the end. As another critic put it: Rian Johnson isn't as clever as he thinks he is. This movie is good enough to recommend, and the viewer will have a fun two hours, but the film doesn't bear re-watching.

1 comment:

Charles said...

This is on my list of films to see.

Also, anyone who saw The Last Jedi already knows that Rian Johnson isn't anywhere near as clever as he thinks he is.