Thursday, December 19, 2019

It Came From The Cineplex: Knives Out

There's too much going on this month to do a proper write up for this film, so please enjoy this Micro Review!

Knives Out was written and directed by Rian Johnson. Yeah, that Rian Johnson. He previously wrote and directed Brick, The Brothers Bloom and Looper. I liked all three of those films just fine, which makes it all the more puzzling that he also wrote and directed Star Wars: The Last Straw, er, I mean The Last Jedi. I hate that film with the white hot passion of a thousand exploding suns, and no amount of arguing will ever change my mind. It permanently killed my life-long love of Star Wars, and if I thought I could safely remove the part of my brain that stores the memory of that film, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Knives Out is a good old fashioned Whodunnit, in the tradition of Agatha Christie. In fact the film's detective character, Benoit Blanc, is very much like Christie's own Hercule Poirot.

It's a well-written and well-constructed film, featuring a convoluted mystery, wonderful performances and gorgeous cinematography. It's a lot of fun, and I had a great time watching it.

That said, I don't get all the praise being heaped on it. It's just a standard mystery movie— no different than a hundred others that came before it. So why all the hype? Is it because it's been such a sh*tty year for movies that when a competent one comes along it looks amazing by comparison?

So far Knives Out has grossed $162 million worldwide against its modest $40 million budget, making it a definite box office success.


The Plot:
On the night of his eighty fifth birthday, wealthy mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead in his spacious mansion. The police investigate and determine Harlan killed himself, labeling it an open and shut case. Quirky Detective Benoit Blanc, who was hired by an unknown party, isn't so sure.

Blanc interviews Harlan's many dysfunctional family members, all of whom had opportunity and motive to kill him and inherit his vast fortune. 

Tempers and suspicions flare when it's revealed that Harlan left his entire fortune to his young nurse Marta Cabrera, who administered his daily medication and kept him company.

The family members accuse Marta of manipulating him into leaving her all his money and then offing him. There're lots of accusations, red herrings and startling revelations before Blanc ultimately uncovers the truth regarding Harlan's death.


• I don't have time to write a lot here, so this'll be brief.

• Daniel Craig plays Detective Benoit Blanc, giving him a distinctive "Foghorn Leghorn" southern accent. This is the second time Craig's affected such an accent, as he previously did so in 2017's Logan Lucky.

• In the film, the eighty five year old Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer) has an even more elderly mother, Greatnana Wanetta (played by K Callan). Despite the fact that she's playing his mom, Callan is actually seven years younger than Plummer!

• Frank Oz, who famously puppeteered and voiced Yoda in the Star Wars films, plays the Thrombey family's attorney Alan Stevens. This is Oz's first on-camera appearance in over twenty years.

• Jaeden Martell plays Jacob, the youngest member of the Thrombey clan. Martell played B-B-B-Bill Denbrough in IT and IT: Chapter Two.

• I was very surprised to see M. Emmet Walsh pop up in a cameo role, as I was positive he died years ago.

• Marta has a peculiar condition which causes her to vomit uncontrollably any time she doesn't tell the truth— meaning she's physically incapable of lying. 

Well THAT'S certainly convenient! Especially for Blanc! He has a witness with a built in lie detector, who has to truthfully answer any question he asks her. Her condition eliminates her from suspicion, and he knows he can trust her observations and testimony.

I'm sure Rian Johnson thought he was being fiendishly clever here, but Marta's tic is a pretty lazy plot contrivance if you ask me.

• Throughout the movie, the Thrombeys all tell Marta they consider her part of the family, and will see to it that "she's taken care of." They reveal their hypocrisy though when none of them actually know her nationality, as the various family members think she's from Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil or even Cuba.

FORESHADOWING ALERT! As longtime readers of Bob Canada's BlogWorld know, I love it when a movie has proper setup and payoff.

Early in the film, Harlan tells Marta that his good-for-nothing grandson Ransom (played by Chris Evans) "wouldn't know a prop knife from a real one."

At the end of the film, Marta and Blanc trick Ransom into revealing he killed Harlan's housekeeper Fran. Enraged, Ransom grabs a knife from a display and stabs Marta in the heart with it. True to Harlan's word, it turns out to be a harmless prop knife with a retractable blade!

Knives Out is a fun murder mystery that's well written, well acted and competently made. It's also pretty much like every other Whodunnit ever made, so don't expect any surprises. 


I would have given this movie a much higher score, if not for the fact that it just plain ANGERS and ENRAGES me. Knives Out definitively proves that Rian Johnson CAN make a good movie when he wants to. Meaning he just didn't want to when on The Last Jedi

Why he would deliberately destroy the Star Wars franchise by writing and directing the worst entry in the series, I have no idea. All I know is that this well-made movie makes me hate both The Last Jedi and Rian Johnson more than I already did, if such a thing is even possible. As a result, this lessens my enjoyment of Knives Out as well. Screw you, Rian Johnson!

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