In theatres in time for the holidays from writer/director Rain Johnson and Lionsgate is a murder mystery that has more twists than a red vine with KNIVES OUT.
Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a very rich man who made his fortune writing crime novels. Having an 85th birthday party he invites friends and family over to celebrate. The next morning, Harlan is in his upstairs den when Fran (Edi Patterson) the housekeeper finds him dead! The family is brought together after his funeral as police officers Lt. Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield), Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) and the mysterious Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) have more questions.
The questioning begins with Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), Thrombey’s oldest daughter, her husband Richard (Don Johnson), Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon), wife Donna (Riki Lindhome) and son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), daughter-in-law Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette) and daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), Greatnana Wanetta (K Callan) and finally Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) who was Harlan’s nurse. The one person taking his time getting there is the Drysdale’s son Ransom (Chris Evans).
As each of them are questioned, a story emerges once you get past the ‘oh we all loved him’ speeches. At the party, each of the family members had a conversation with Harlan that puts them in the category of suspect. While the police go on with their work, Blanc begins to ask more questions and start putting pieces together that, on the outside, seem to fit very well.
Blanc finds Marta to be the person who knows a lot about the family having spent so much time with Harlan. Since she also has a condition that makes her unable to lie, Marta is Blanc’s best hope for finding more clues. When Harlan’s attorney comes to read the will, chaos ensues when the family doesn’t get what they are hoping for. Fingers begin to point and tongues begin to wag in a way that Blanc just sits back and listens.
But not everything is as it seems and not everyone is telling the truth – including who the mystery person is that hired Blanc from the beginning. When it comes time to reveal everything, the family is going to have to rethink their lives.
Then again, that’s what happens when the knives are out!
Craig as Blanc is, what Ransom calls the ‘CSI KFC’. He is a sleuth with a southern accent who has the uncanny ability to be patient. When the family is in the room together, he is the one just listening to the insults, the accusations and the mayhem because, as we all know, that’s when truth has a tendency to show itself. I just love Craig’s character from beginning to end. He has an opinion but doesn’t always share it and when it comes time for the who-dun-it, his piecing together is fast, furious and hilarious.
De Armas as Marta knows just about everything there is to know about Harlan’s family. She isn’t just his nurse but became a friend because she believed he needed one. Watching the family all lose their minds, Marta tries to steer clear until it becomes impossible for her to do so. De Armas is such a strong character in the film filled with strong characters. Besides Blanc, Marta is the most likeable character in the film – well done young lady!
Curtis as Linda just drives me happy being on the screen. She is witty, quick and a smartass all rolled in one which is what I was hoping for. Don’t let the manicured nails fool you, she has her own problems and Daddy is just one of them. Johnson as hubby Richard goes along to get along. Marrying into a rich family doesn’t give him a lot of wiggle room but when cornered, he just throws a wad of money and hopes it goes away. Evans as son Ransom is a spoiled rotten little smart mouth who hasn’t done a day’s work in his life relying only on the good graces and large bank account of grandfather Hanlan. Ransom is handsome, charming and good looking which is okay every everybody in the audience!
Shannon as Walt is the nervously tall son who is frustrated with his father over their publishing business. His frustration grows when he doesn’t know exactly where he stands or if he’s out of a job! Then again his nervousness could be making him shaky just being in the room with his nutty family! Lindhome as Donna is a wife finding solace in a very large glass of something alcoholic! Martell as Jacob is a young man stuck in the world of technology and truly disinterested in the ravings of the adults around him.
Collette as Joni Thrombey only married into the family yet enjoys the financial benefits, especially with daughter Meg going to college on Grandpa’s many dimes. Like Curtis, Collette is smart (well, sort of) and doesn’t hesitate to throw sarcasm around with ease. There are looks she gives that just had me breaking out in laughter. Langford as daughter Meg is opinionated and has no fear of the family and their antics. When it comes time to take sides, she does slip a bit and has a moment of weakness.
Stanfield as Lt. Elliott is investigating Harlan’s death believing it to be a suicide and just trying to wrap things up. When Blanc enters the picture, that wrapping up isn’t exactly going to plan. Segan as Wagner is so infatuated with the case having to so with his favorite crime writer that he’s just happy to be there!
Okay, kudos, hats off and cheers to Callan as Greatnana. She doesn’t have a lot to say but her presence in the film is just icing on the mysterious cake.
Other cast include: Marlene Forte as Marta’s mother, M. Emmet Walsh as Mr. Proofroc, Frank Oz as Alan Stevens.
DEATHTRAP (1982) and CLUE (1985) are two of my favorite sleuthing films and I will stop what I’m doing anytime I see them on cable and watch. To this day I still laugh as hard now as I did the very first time I saw each of them. I can finally add KNIVES OUT to that small list of who-dun-it’s and I couldn’t be happier about it.
The film just has absolutely everything and yet it’s kept very simple in its telling. The wit that flies around the film at break neck speed is sheer perfection for someone like me who would have the same responses if a sleuthing thing with a family like the Thrombey’s ever happened in my life. The film is wrapped in cleverness that is just twisted as the storyline itself.
From the very first frame it seemed that the cast was having too good of a time with their roles because each of them made it look all too easy. The flow was spectacular and even when I thought the film had given everything away in the first half, I was in for so much more than I could have bargained for. Even the audience had a moment where they were a little concerned that it wasn’t going to go anywhere fast but the laughter kept coming.
Catching the flittering of jabs being thrown to falling for Greatnana, KNIVES OUT is just a good time in the theatre with a bucket of popcorn and good friends. The emotional ups and downs is a rollercoaster ride of a tale in seats that don’t come with a harness. Throw your hands up and enjoy the ride because I suspect there won’t be another like it for another thirty-seven years.
In the end – everyone has a motive and no one has a clue!