Review: Knives Out

KNIVES OUT originally ran as part of our TIFF 2019 coverage.

PLOT: The mysterious death of a superstar author (Christopher Plummer) attracts the attention of a world-famous detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who gathers the victim’s greedy relatives and his nurse for an investigation into what happened.

REVIEW: It’s unlikely anything will come out this year that’s quite as much fun as KNIVES OUT. A classic “whodunit”, albeit one that’s been given a thoroughly modern face-lift, this is the rare star-driven, adult piece of entertainment that’s not being geared towards winning any awards, but rather is hellbent on showing its audience a good time.

It’s a triumphant piece of work for director Rian Johnson, very much in the vein of his earlier THE BROTHERS BLOOM. His STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI proved to be…ummm…divisive, but this will likely win over even his most vocal critics, as it’s hard to imagine anyone not having a whale of a time here as we try to figure out who did it.

He’s certainly assembled one of the better casts in recent memory, headed by Daniel Craig in what truly could become another franchise character for him, genteel southern private eye Benoit Blanc. Imagine a more coiffed Hercule Poirot with a bit more of an impish sense of humor, Blanc could be the ideal next big franchise for him as he gets a little older. It’s a part he could theoretically play for years and years. A mysterious figure who’s already famous in the world this takes place in (“I read a tweet about an article about you in Esquire” says Toni Collette’s character in what might be the most 2019 piece of dialogue ever), he really is the kind of character you want to follow around on more adventures, and an ideal creation by Johnson.

Interestingly though, he’s not the main character. Rather, the star is Ana de Armas as the family nurse, the one person who genuinely seemed to love Plummer’s patriarch, and the two have charming father-daughter style chemistry, with the older man delighted by this young nurse who can dominate him in his favorite game, “Go”. She has a rare affliction where, if she lies, she instantly vomits, making her the ideal partner for Blanc, with him referring to her over and over as Watson, treating her similar to how Plummer did, once again making her a close confidant, not that she wants to be. Armas is very likable here and easy to root for, and also the one character we know we can trust given her affliction and a choice by Johnson to reveal everything she could be hiding within the first act.

Daniel Craig knives outThe rogues’ gallery of family members are deliciously cast, with Jamie Lee Curtis as the oldest daughter, a brassy, tough lady with no time for Blanc’s games (“who the f**k are you” is the way she greets him in their first scene together). Don Johnson (the greatest!) plays her MAGA hubby, with Chris Evans is her dissolute son, with him stealing every scene he’s in a role far removed from Captain America. Michael Shannon is the youngest son, with him cast against type as a weakling, while IT’s Jaeden Martell plays his Alt-right son (both alt-righties, MAGA, and so-called SJW’s get much fun poked at them here by a playful Johnson).

The cast is rounded out by Toni Collette, who’s hilarious as the privileged daughter-in-law, while Katherine Langford is her daughter – who’s all for being liberal – when it suits her Certainly some will note the film does contain a degree of political content, but it’s hard not to make a movie set in 2019 among the wealthy without at least acknowledging this aspect, and it should be emphasized that this is all done in fun, with both sides of the divide getting a thorough mocking. Bear in mind, this is a comedic mystery with a heavy emphasis on the comedic part. LaKeith Stanfield and Johnson regular Noah Segan have fun roles as Craig’s befuddled cop colleagues, while Nathan Johnson’s score is evocative of the kind of score you might have heard had this been made in the seventies with Marvin Hamlisch doing the soundtrack. That’s not to say it’s old-fashioned, it’s just playful.

Truly, KNIVES OUT is a blast right from the first frame, giving Craig what could be the next great franchise character for him to play in a whole series of movies, were this to make enough money to warrant it. Hopefully, it does, because the world needs more Benoit Blancs.

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