(US - 2019)
Written and directed by Rian Johnson. Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Margaret Langford, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindhome, Frank Oz, Edi Patterson, K Callan, Noah Segan, M. Emmet Walsh, Marlene Forte. (PG-13, 130 mins)
Pop culture artifacts have always served as accurate reflections of the era in which they were produced, and when the dust settles, the wildly and wickedly entertaining KNIVES OUT will go down as one of the most razor-sharp critiques of the Age of Trump. It may draw from the mysteries of Agatha Christie and play like an elaborate redux of CLUE, but with its cast of greedy, deplorable heirs content to live off Daddy's wealth and fame, and the daughter of an illegal immigrant who ends up the target of their white privilege wrath, KNIVES OUT isn't exactly subtle. It's ultimately a perfect metaphor for the whole idea of the 2019-2020 now of this moment, not just in the political and social divide but also the rage and the malignant narcissism that have become commonplace, and it's best thing writer/director Rian Johnson has done since his 2006 debut BRICK. That's certainly not to slight 2012's LOOPER in any way, but perhaps after dealing with everything that came with making something as huge as STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, KNIVES OUT almost seems like a back-to-basics breather of sorts, even with its labyrinthine plot, endless twists and turns, and a large cast of characters with ever-shifting alliances and an eagerness to talk shit and throw everyone else under the bus.
"Maine Justice" judge on SNL (Ransom: "What is this? CSI: KFC?"). KNIVES OUT masterfully balances suspense, blistering laughs at the expense of the 1% (multiple characters refer to Jacob as "the little Nazi," and watch Johnson's Trump-supporting Richard blast immigrants while thoughtlessly handing Marta his empty plate, proof that even when she's an invited guest at Thrombey's birthday party, they still only see her as "the help") and frequently self-aware humor, as when Elliott describes the Thrombey estate as "living in a Clue board" or when he reacts to an obligatory, out-of-nowhere car chase by declaring "That was the dumbest car chase ever." Johnson errs slightly by sidelining too many of the film's more vigorous supporting actors in the second half (Curtis, in particular, is on fire here, and we're long overdue for the Don Johnsonssaince that COLD IN JULY would've started in a perfect world), but the richly-textured and intricately-constructed KNIVES OUT is an absolute blast from beginning to end, culminating in a beautifully cathartic final shot that ends it on a perfect note.