For me, it’s hard to sit down and watch anything right now. With all the time in the world to do so, not much appeals to me unless I’ve already seen it. It’s rewatching season mostly. I saw a new movie on Amazon called “Blow the Man Down,” which I mistakenly thought would be a quirky comedy about, well, a man, I guess. It is set in Maine and somehow I thought it was about a curmudgeon who is changed, like “A Man Called Ove.”
Anyway, I was way off on that; it’s a dark, violent Coen brothers-esque drama about two sisters murdering someone. I have only myself to blame for not realizing that — clearly the accompanying image is the two sisters ditching a body off of a pier. Did I really think they were a cute old man? I guess I did. It seemed decent, but I had to turn it off once the knives came out. Then I realized I haven’t watched “Knives Out” yet! Something I have been looking forward to, still out there waiting for me. If you are lucky enough to have not seen it still, you are in for a treat. It’s engrossing but ludicrous, with so many plot twists that you have to pay attention.
In a fabulous, theatrically decorated country home, the adult children of highly successful mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) gather to suck up to him in honor of his 85th birthday. The next morning, he is found with his throat slit, a presumed — if unusual — suicide. As a story about the strange death of a mystery writer, “Knives Out” takes every Agatha Christie, “Columbo,” “Clue,” “Murder, She Wrote” and any other mystery trope you can think of and simply rolls around in it. It luxuriates in cliché, and it is hilarious.
We get a colorful cast of hangers-on, and each has — you guessed it — a secret. Jamie Lee Curtis is a confident career woman who suffers zero fools; Don Johnson is her foolish, suffering husband; and, most delectably, Chris Evans is their insufferable son. Evans gets the best name (Ransom Drysdale), the best costume and possibly the juiciest role in a cast that’s pretty much wall to wall juice. Giving him a run for his money is Daniel Craig, with an impossible Southern accent and even more impossible blue eyes, and the wondrous name Detective Benoit Blanc.
The games’ afoot when Blanc is anonymously summoned to assist the investigation, led by a dubious Lakeith Stanfield and his partner, a mystery super fan who stands in for the audience as he points out the many ways this case is just like one of its subject’s novels. With the help of a doe-eyed nurse who is also a prime suspect, Blanc investigates the family and finds that everyone had a motive. Most of this action gleefully takes place in front of a huge sculpture literally made of knives.
With a perfectly calibrated tone that goes over the top and enjoys every minute, this witty, twisty comedy was vibrant yet macabre and, most importantly, totally engrossing. And, fittingly, it is an instant rewatchable classic, so whether you missed it in theaters or not, it’s the perfect two-hour tonic for today.
Newcomer Ana de Armas (“Blade Runner 2049”) centers the film as its relative straight man, a wide-eyed innocent caught in the self-indulgent web of the Thrombey family. Craig’s daffy Blanc uses her to help him solve the crime, circling her like a flamboyant Sherlock Holmes who happens to talk like Yosemite Sam. Michael Shannon plays a surprisingly non-terrifying man for once, a hobbling sycophant confined to a limited role in his father’s literary kingdom. In the party scene, a hilarious Toni Collette attempts to dance with her sister-in-law, Curtis, who remains seated and lets her arm drop every time Collette releases it. All of them are at the top of their game.
No one is more fun to watch than the erstwhile Captain America, Evans, repackaged as Captain Smarmy, smug in a snug fisherman’s sweater and paisley scarf. The costumes and set in this film lift every minute up and fill in the characters superby. I never fell too hard for Evans as a hero, so I particularly enjoyed seeing the power of his hair used for evil in this. And it was even better the second time around.
“Knives Out” is currently available to rent.
New This Week:
Nothing is new this week, obviously, but all the old James Bond movies just arrived to watch free with Amazon Prime. My family won’t follow any of my streaming suggestions, so someone please listen to me. I started with “Goldfinger.” As a companion, “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” is on Netflix. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” just landed on Netflix, as well.
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