People like what we once called the Drawing Room Mystery, a complex, many layered who-done-it with twists where there aren’t any turns, and turns where there aren’t any twists. Usually, a brilliant detective like Hercule Poirot brings all the tangled skeins of the plot together in a grand reveal at the end. In a parlor.
“Knives Out” slips easily into the upper ranks of this genre. Instead of Hercule Poirot we have Daniel Craig, lately as James Bond, going against type as the brilliant detective rather than the two-fisted super spy. Craig manages a languid demeanor and a tide water accent in his role as Benoit Blanc, master detective. One of the characters refers to Blanc as Foghorn Leghorn, a cartoon rooster with a southern accent. Droll that.
The star cluster ensemble cast has a host of famous and familiar actors. The plot centers on the death of a successful, quite rich author (Christopher Plummer). His nasty brood of offspring includes Jamie Lee Curtis with her husband (Don Johnson). Chris Evans (often seen as “Captain America”) and Michael Shannon support. Beautiful Cuban born and escaped Ana de Armas plays the nurse/confidante of the elderly writer. Toni Collette rounds out the most famous cast members, except a small role for M. Emmet Walsh, well known for some 225 credits over his very long career.
Writer/director Rian Johnson is something special. He wrote and directed his first feature film, the 2005 “Brick” with a tiny budget of $450,000. A wonderful film noir mystery set in a sunny California beach high school, the film brought him money and fame. He followed with “Looper” (both starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt). In 2017 he wrote and directed “Star Wars: Episode VIII.”
The family members in “Knives Out” treat each other with a vile intensity that shocks the ordinary viewer. They castigate one another for their political views in a brutal and nasty way. I hope none of you experienced this over the Thanksgiving feast.
Three saw blades to this entertaining mystery. “Knives Out” runs a long two hours and 10 minutes. With a budget of $40 million and a PG-13 rating, the film reaped a solid $70 million at the box office on the special holiday Wednesday-Sunday opening.
Fun facts: Writer/director Rian Johnson has been picked to ramrod the next three “Star Wars” flicks. “Star Wars” may go on forever, like the Bond films. M. Emmet Walsh played in “Blade Runner” way back in 1982. His co-worker in “Knives Out,” Ana de Armas played in the 2017 “Blade Runner 2049.”
Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas will be back next year in the new Bond film “No Time to Die.”