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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Rian Johnson
prd Ram Bergman, Rian Johnson
with Daniel Craig, Janelle Monae, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, Leslie Odom Jr, Madelyn Cline, Jessica Henwick, Jackie Hoffman, Dallas Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Hugh Grant, Serena Williams, Angela Lansbury, Stephen Sondheim
release US/UK 23.Nov.22
22/US Lionsgate 2h19
Is it streaming?
After the gleeful chaos of Knives Out, writer-director Rian Johnson returns with another fiendishly well-constructed whodunit for Daniel Craig's lively Southern sleuth Benoit Blanc. This film isn't quite as camp, but it's even funnier as the plot crashes through its crazy twists and turns, subverting the mystery genre itself before giving in to its more enjoyable pleasures: make everyone a suspect before unpeeling a satisfyingly thumping conclusion.
Five hugely successful people have been invited to a murder mystery weekend at the lavish Greek island home of their billionaire friend Miles (Norton): cancelled-but-oblivious socialite Birdie (Hudson), rising-star politician Claire (Hahn), social media guru Duke (Bautista), science whiz Lionel (Odom) and fashion icon Cassandra (Monae), who has fallen out with the group. They're also, for some reason, joined by detective Benoit (Craig), who annoyingly solves Miles murder before it even happens. Much more alert than he seems, he also spots the potential for more nastiness to come between people who share a shady past.
Story inversions come quickly, as revelations and flashbacks continually divulge details that inform what's happening on this island. This rapidly shifting narrative is a lot of fun to hang on to, especially with such hot-topic themes in each person's profession. There are also some emotional undercurrents that offer connections here and there, drawing us in deeper, even as Johnson keeps flashing back within the flashbacks as he drops clues alongside a continual barrage of riotous gags.
With characters this outrageous, it feels like the actors have invited us to party with them. Craig tones down Benoit's Foghorn Leghorn accent just a bit, layering in some nuance (punched by Grant's superb cameo). Monae goes a bit big in the show-stealing role, but finds several terrific textures as a vulnerable woman on a mission. Norton takes a mercilessly accurate swing at tech mogul excesses, and Cline and Henwick have their own strong moments as sidekicks to Duke and Birdie, respectively. Meanwhile, a radiant Hudson gets the best lines as a woman always one step behind everyone else.
Johnson juggles each element of this story expertly, filling eye-popping locations with smart dialog and witty directorial touches that construct an almost absurdly perfect finale. But it's the more subtle touches that make this sequel even better than the original, relaxing into a messy narrative to allow underlying thoughtfulness to emerge through the mayhem. This catches our hearts as well as our minds. And the audience's laughter makes this well worth seeing in a packed cinema, rather than at home.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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