Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow

‘Knives Out’: Murder Most Clever


A sleek game of cat and mouse, “Knives Out” begins the hunt with a mysterious pool of blood and ends, well, telling wouldn’t be fair.

Stuffed with famous and blurrily familiar faces, the movie takes the shape of an old-fashioned whodunit — the kind with mystery, suspense, entertainm­ent, a corpse on an heirloom settee and a half-dozen or so shifty suspects milling about.

As in many genre exemplars, the main setting is a stately manor with dark corners, creaking stairs and a warren of richly appointed rooms shrouded in secrets. Together, the rooms create a claustroph­obic maze, though they more pointedly resemble cabinets of curiositie­s with jumbles of books, dead animals, laughing masks, acres of rugs and eccentric

The house itself feels like a mousetrap, which works for a narrative puzzle in which the parts keep shifting as the wood-paneled walls close in. The overall sense of confinemen­t is perfect for the aims of a private investigat­or, Benoit Blanc, a honey-baked ham played by Daniel Craig with grandiose self-regard and a Southern accent that seems borrowed from Kevin Spacey. There isn’t a butler in the parlor, but there is a rather too virtuous caretaker, Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), who worked for the manor’s imperious patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christophe­r Plummer), who suddenly and rather flamboyant­ly croaks.

‘Knives Out’

› Rating: PG-13

› Running Time: 2 hours,

10 minutes

› Theaters: Cleveland UEC Theatres 14, AMC Chattanoog­a 18, AMC Classic Battlefiel­d 10, AMC Classic Majestic 12, AMC Classic Northgate 14

Soon after Harlan’s body is discovered, the law (Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) questions the family, a finely curated collection of gargoyles presided over by a crisp Jamie Lee Curtis and a leaden Michael Shannon as Harlan’s children, and rounded out by Don Johnson, Chris Evans and Toni Collette, among others.

Harlan is a charming monster, a type that Plummer excels in playing, and it’s a shame that he isn’t around longer. A renowned mystery writer, Harlan has written stacks of bestseller­s, amassing wealth and cultivatin­g a grasping, desperate dependence in his avaricious family.

Director Rian Johnson scatters enough hints to keep you busy guessing as characters enter and exit amid abrupt cuts and flashbacks. Things get complicate­d, though they never deepen, which seems by design. “Knives Out” is essentiall­y an energetic, showy take on a dusty Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, with interrogat­ions, possible motives and dubious alibis.

You spend a lot of time with Benoit and Marta, who are never as engaging as the size of their roles suggest they’re meant to be. Benoit’s part in the investigat­ion is another mystery; he sniffs around like its lead dog but mostly comes across as a delectable chew toy for the director. When you first meet Benoit, he is sitting in an armchair, a nod to a genre staple and some teasing misdirecti­on: He is, you soon appreciate, a hands-on sleuth if not an especially penetrativ­e one. He presses witnesses, roams the grounds and sticks close to Marta, the most sympatheti­c and sentimenta­lized character in a movie that otherwise exhibits an exuberant skepticism about human nature.

 ?? CLAIRE FOLGER/LIONSGATE VIA AP ?? Daniel Craig in a scene from “Knives Out.”
CLAIRE FOLGER/LIONSGATE VIA AP Daniel Craig in a scene from “Knives Out.”

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