Knee-jerk review: "Knives Out"

1. Really, really good.
2. If you want to know what it looks like when an actor truly relishes a role and can't hide how much fun he's having, take a look at Daniel Craig here playing Southern-fried Detective Benoit Blanc.  (What a name!)
3. Memorable characters, clever pretzel plotting, hilarious moments.  Writer-director Rian Johnson, so unfairly attacked for The Last Jedi, proves without a doubt that he has chops.  (If you haven't seen it, take a look also at his time travel thriller Looper.)
4. We don't claim to be Agatha Christie experts, but this movie is steeped in Christie-an tropes (wealthy patriarch - played by Christopher Plummer - dies unexpectedly; all of his upper-crust relatives have a motive; the suspects all gathered for questioning in a drawing room by a quirky detective; a death that isn't nearly as simple as it first seems).
5. But Johnson wisely turns some of those Agatha Christie expectations on their head, such as suggesting Blanc maybe isn't as brilliant as his New Yorker profile makes it look or by delivering a death that is inexplicably equal parts premeditated murder and tragic mistake.
6. "What is this, CSI KFC?"
7. It's a standout cast, but Toni Collette is particularly entertaining as Plummer's greedy daughter-in-law, a passive-aggressive lifestyle influencer.  We think she's doing a Gwyneth Paltrow impression.
8. The central location - Plummer's sprawling Gothic mansion - is practically a character unto itself.  As a bestselling Christie-like author, Plummer's character has filled his house with all kinds of strange knick-knacks, not the least of which is a giant wall decoration of knives in all shapes and sizes.
9. Captain America himself, Chris Evans, does a fun heel turn.
10. It's a donut inside a donut, you see.  Hilarious.
11. Ana de Armas carries the movie as the kind nurse to Plummer's patriarch, but we had a hard time zeroing in how this whole experience was affecting her.  Typically, the events of the movie somehow change the hero, teach a lesson, and correct some character flaw.  There is a nice moment early on when Ana's meek Marta seems to steel herself to embrace the fight ahead, but that's pretty subtle.  This may just be one of those movies that's more about plot than some big transformation of character; the good characters prove they're incorruptible, the evil characters prove they're irredeemable.
12. Don't miss it.

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