Movie Review: See How They Run

Movie critics get to see films before they open, when they’re screened for us at theatres. Sometimes we’re sent a DVD or a screener link to watch them online. Yet with Disney pictures, it’s the biggest ordeal. You have to create passwords, you have to give them a cell number, so they can text you a secret code to put in. Then I had an NDA I had to sign, that had all kinds of legal stuff. I think at one point, I had to also tell them the name of the street my mom grew up on. After spending 15 minutes doing all this, it sent me to a place to watch the link, only for it to say the browser wasn’t working. The only good thing about all that was that it gave me an excuse to eat a delicious burger and see this at my favorite theatre – Angelika Film Center. Unfortunately, the movie was a big, fat nothing burger.

This is Tom George’s directorial debut,and he goes for a meta-mystery mousetrap. If Rian Johnson and Kenneth Branagh can have fun with whodunits, he figures he’ll throw his fedora into the ring. The problem is, all his self-aware, clever takes on the genre just don’t work. And with this cast, the onus falls on him and screenwriter Mark Chappell.

Adrien Brody starts off narrating the piece, as an obnoxious director that spends his time drinking and trying to get women onto the casting couch. He’s the director that’s not so enthusiastic about taking Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” to the big screen, despite its success on London’s West End stage (taking place in 1953). They’re celebrating their 100th performance, and he hasn’t even seen it.

When the director gets into a fight with lead actor Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson), he ends up backstage, in another fight, which ends in his death. 

The entire crew of the production are now suspects, and in comes Scotland Yard. Lucky for us, Saoirse Ronan is an eager constable, that’s rather likable, and has a few cute lines. Unlucky for us, that Sam Rockwell – one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood – plays a boozy sleuth. He isn’t the least bit interesting. He’s got a big mustache, but it’s got nothing on Branagh’s Poirot. 

David Oyelowo, usually reliable on screen, plays a gay screenwriter. He’s horrible in the role and the character doesn’t quite work. He and his lover (or “nephew” as he calls him) are always fighting, and he’s always pontificating on how much better he’ll make the Mousetrap script.

The set designs aren’t interesting. The split-screens ad nothing, aside from perhaps giving it the vibe of an old school murder mystery. You feel like everything is shot the way it is because they thought it would be cool.

The director thought he was doing a Wes Anderson/Agatha Christie mash-up. It’s a movie with a lot of characters nobody’s really going to care about, and jokes they run into the ground Narrators telling us the unlikable characters get killed first, then we see it; telling us things that are annoying in movies, and then doing that very thing. How is that clever?

And, I’m not sure what the Beatles-sounding title even means. I did fall asleep during 10 minutes of it (those damn Angelika reclining seats are so comfortable), so maybe I missed the reference.

I think my wife liked the movie less than I did (although she agreed that Ronan was great, adding “It’s the type of character screenwriters usually make annoying, bumbling idiots.”)

2 stars out of 5.

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