Crooked House Review
Crooked House is a 2017 crime drama about a spy-turned-private-detective who is lured by his former lover to catch her grandfather’s murderer before Scotland Yard exposes dark family secrets.
While Stephen King is having himself quite a year with remakes and adaptations, he’s not the only famed writer getting some attention in theaters lately, with Agatha Christie getting a couple of her own. Kenneth Branagh‘s recent Murder on the Orient Express mostly failed to register with audiences and critics, despite some praise for his performance, and now, giving it a crack, is Gilles Paquet-Brenner‘s latest, Crooked House, based on the 1949 novel of the same name, a lush and well-acted film that is certainly entertaining, in a theatrical flare-ish way, that embraces the English manor mystery tropes with plenty of gusto.
Aristide Leonides, a very wealthy Greek businessman is found dead in his large estate, discovered one morning by his eldest granddaughter Sophia (Stefanie Martini). Suspecting he was done in not by nature but foul play, she contacts her former lover, Charles Hayward (Max Irons), a struggling private detective – and former spy – in need of work. Hesitant at first, he reluctantly agrees and journeys into the mansion, a dark and foreboding home to a number of curious cold and scathing personalities of whom it would seem any could be the killer. Now he’s got to get underneath all the embittered banter and learn just who is behind the plot to win the fortune.
Featuring a large ensemble cast, they include Julian Sands as Sophia’s father and Christian McKay as her brother. Gillian Anderson and Amanda Abbington are their troubled wives. There’s Sophia’s younger siblings Honor Kneafsey and Preston Nyman, she an aspiring 12-year-old investigator herself and he a snotty teen. Then there’s Christina Hendricks, playing Brenda, the American widow of Leonides, a woman half a century his junior. John Heffernan is the children’s in-house tutor who might be having an affair with Brenda. And finally, of course, Glenn Close is Lady Edith de Haviland, Leonides’ sister-in-law from a previous marriage, the shotgun-toting head of the house. The group makes for a colorful band of sorts that all play well into the gameboard-esque characters, dropping lines that offer roundabout clues with icy stabs and dripping sarcasm. Others show up, such as Terrance Stamp and Roger Ashton-Griffiths, men manipulating from the outside.
It all unspools like a well-produced PBS drama, with little fanfare and emotional ups and down, more committed to its dialogue and intrigue. It swims deeply in the clichés of the genre but does it mostly well, the high-caliber cast always keeping it interesting. Irons is the most drab of the lot though, and as we follow him throughout, he doesn’t always inspire momentum. Naturally, Close is the most engaging though most are entertainingly delicious enough, however the film itself barely has any energy. Paquet-Brenner is perfunctory in his approach, clearly enamored with the setting but doing little to give it any life. Admittedly, Christie’s story is a very dark one, yet there’s not much joy in discovery here, something that a film like this so greatly depends upon. Still, you’ll probably find yourself hanging on to the bleak finale, just to see how it ends. To be sure though, fans of Christie’s work will surely find plenty to enjoy.
Crooked House Review
Movie description: Crooked House is a 2017 crime drama about a spy-turned-private-detective who is lured by his former lover to catch her grandfather's murderer before Scotland Yard exposes dark family secrets.
Director(s): Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Actor(s): Christina Hendricks, Gillian Anderson, Honor Kneafsey