KNIVES OUT – Review by Susan Granger

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When acclaimed mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead – his throat slit – just after his 85th birthday celebration, it’s thought to be suicide.

But everyone in his extended family has a reason for killing him – like Harlan’s resentful son Walt (Michael Shannon), his wife Donna (Riki Lindhome) and creepy grandson (Jaeden Martell); Harlan’s officious daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis, her husband Richard (Don Johnson) and cranky grandson Ransom (Chris Evans); and Harlan’s goofy ‘lifestyle influencer’ widowed daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) and college age granddaughter Meg (Katherine Langford).

Harlan’s devoted nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), the daughter of an illegal immigrant, was the last one to see him alive. And someone hired highly-esteemed detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to accompany the local police officer (Lakeith Stanfield) and his deputy (Noah Segan) as he interviews those who were at Harlan’s home that fateful evening.

Adapting the style of Agatha Christie with a touch of Trump-era class-warfare, writer/director Rian Johnson’s star-studded, character-driven plot unfolds like the board game Clue, a bit reminiscent of “Sleuth” and “Murder on the Orient Express.”

While Rian Johnson is perhaps best known for writing and directing “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017), his delightful knack for idiosyncratic characters and precise dialogue was evident in “Looper” (2012). Quoting Alfred Hitchcock, Johnson pleads: “Please don’t spoil the ending. It’s the only one we’ve got.”

The casting-against-type is terrific! Speaking with a hammy, Southern-fried accent, Daniel Craig scraps his James Bond persona, while Chris Evans sheds his heroic “Captain America” image for that of an offensive trust-fund slacker.

FYI: For Harlan Thrombey’s ornate estate, Rian Johnson chose the palatial Ames Mansion, built in the early 1900s in Borderland State Park in Easton, Massachusetts. It was the home of artist/women’s right’s activist Blanche and Oakes Ames, a Harvard botany professor/heir to a shovel company.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Knives Out” is a nefariously enjoyable 8, a comedic whodunit that will keep you guessing until the very end.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.