A goofy and deadpan (if not brilliant) Agatha Christie spoof.
In “See How They Run,” Sam Rockwell stars as the weary Inspector Stoppard, who is sent into action to investigate the murder of a blacklisted filmmaker named Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody). He’s forced to bring the young rookie Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) along on the murder mystery to keep his department’s reputation in balance.
It’s an Agatha Christie parody which acts like it takes place in a parallel universe in which Monty Python had a more deadpan sense of humor. It’s wacky and dry. I mean this movie doesn’t exceed a better Agatha Christie-inspired whodunit “Knives Out,” but it’s still fun to watch.
The murder takes place in 1953 at a party which celebrates the 100th time Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” has performed at London’s West End, and the filmmaker has attended to make it into a potential movie, as a way to “make it less boring.” And now he’s dead, and the killer is at large.
Who could be the murderer?
The director John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith), the actor Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson), his wife Sheila Sim (Pearl Chanda), the producer Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson), the writer Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo), or the usher Dennis (Charlie Cooper). Obviously, it couldn’t be two real life actors or director, even if this is a parody. And it sure as Hell ain’t the famous writer. I can promise you that.
They either have their motives or know someone who would. Instead of me spoiling those motives, why don’t you take my advise and see how these people make likable or unlikable suspects.
The inspector and constable have their charming chemistry in the form of a spunky young woman and a drunken man, who lies about a dentist appointment to cover up his drinking. She’s more than happy to work with his on the case, even with some roadblocks in the way.
Rockwell is sly in a low key state, especially when he finds himself in a “Shining” echo, while Ronan is delightful with her sweet and innocent mannerisms, and how she struggles to not jump to any conclusions within the case.
“See How They Run” doesn’t take the kind of risks that “Knives Out” took in the story, but the clues and big reveal keep us involved thanks to writer Mark Chappell and director Tom George. They both seem to admire this particular genre, spliced with comedic touches and talented actors.
There are three movies and one show I’ve seen in the whodunit genre released this year. There was Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile,” “See How They Run,” which I’m reviewing now, and the sequel “Glass Onion: a Knives Out Mystery,” and the second season of “Only Murders in the Building.” I’m excited to see how that sequel pays off, but I’m just enjoying these whodunits for their ability to use actors who know how to play detectives and suspects, and for being ingenious. They’re not perfect, but they know how to entertain.
Getting back to “See How They Run,” it has its tone and humor, which are both dry and interesting at the same time. It’s a parody that knows loves Agatha Christie, or anything inspired by her work. I guess it wants to be a game of cat and mouse.