We have Rian Johnson and his critically acclaimed box office hit “Knives Out” to thank for the revival of the comedic murder mystery. Advance word on the sequel, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” is that it’s as good as the original.
While we patiently await the release of “Glass Onion,” we can be somewhat sated with “See How They Run” (Searchlight), the feature-length debut by director Tom George, with a slightly derivative screenplay by Mark Chappell. It’s no “Knives Out,” but it’s head and shoulders above either of Kenneth Branagh’s unnecessary pair of 21st-century Agatha Christie remakes.
Opening in London’s West End in 1953, shortly after Agatha Christie’s murder mystery play “The Mousetrap” began its eternal run, the premise of “See How They Run” revolves around a proposed movie adaptation (of which there never was one). Boorish American director Leo (Adrien Brody), described as an “expected communist, blacklisted in Hollywood” came to London to make the movie. But he ends up dead instead.
Of course, there are a few suspects. Gay screenwriter Mervyn (David Oyelewo), who introduces his Italian lover Gio (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) as his “nephew,” is at the top of the list. Leo and Mervyn didn’t get along and had public disagreements. Also a prime suspect is actor Dickie (hot Harris Dickinson), a leading-man actor who is displeased at Leo for hitting on his wife, actress Sheila (Pearl Chanda)
Philandering producer John (Reece Shearsmith), who was being blackmailed by Leo (after Leo catches married John with his mistress his hotel accommodations improve greatly with a suite at The Savoy), has his reasons for wanting to see the director dead. As does theater impresario Petula (Ruth Wilson), who is repulsed by Leo and his antics.
On the job to solve the murder mystery are Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and inexperienced Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan, who has a knack for comedy). Their interactions provide much of the movie’s comedic energy. Stoppard, a drunk divorcee, and Stalker, a war widow with two young children, take a while to warm up to each other, but eventually, after a series of mishaps (including Stoppard’s wrongful arrest), they find a way to work together and solve the crime.
No spoilers here, however, if you pay close attention, you may be able to determine the killer’s identity before Stoppard and Stalker. There are lots of devices at play, including a voiceover (lazy!) from dead man Leo. Additionally, the fact that some of the characters are based on real people, including Dickie (Richard Attenborough) and his wife Sheila (Sims), movie studio head John (Woolf of Romulus Films), and even Christie (Shirley Henderson) herself, feels contrived, although possibly difficult to avoid.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.