I remember seeing See How They Run listed showing in the cinema not too long ago, and thinking a murder mystery comedy might be a fun watch in these troubled times in which we find ourselves. But then, life got in the way and I never caught it. Handily, it recently turned up on Disney+, so I thought I’d put it on. At a little over 90 minutes it looked like a fairly snappy watch and breezy material. And, I guess as a bit of a review spoiler, that’s what it is. You’ll be mildly entertained and it won’t take up too much of your time. Don’t expect Knives Out levels, but it’s worth a watch. Damning with faint praise and all that.
It’s set in 1950s London and things kick off at a theatre showing Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. During a party where the cast celebrate a milestone of 100 performances of the play, someone is murdered. No big surprise there, but I guess this film isn’t too big on surprises. In the film’s opening moments the director of the movie adaptation they’re planning to do after the play, Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody), has a voice-over where he says, ‘if you’ve seen one murder mystery you’ve seen ’em all’.
Reflecting on the film, I felt like this was director Tom George’s way of saying to the audience, don’t expect anything new, interesting or different. Which feels like a bit of a cop-out. There are always ways to spin a story so it feels new, even if it’s just in the weird quirks of the characters.
With this story we have Sam Rockwell’s world-weary detective Inspector Stoppard on the case, supported, in time-honoured tradition, by a perky sidekick, here in the form of Saoirse Ronan’s Constable Stalker. These two drive the story, and Ronan in particular, was a delight. I get what Rockwell was going for, but as he was trying to do a weird fusion of cockney and Queen’s (King’s now?) English, I felt his performance was lacking, because he was concentrating so hard on trying to get the accent right. Which makes me wonder, why was he cast? If you needed Rockwell to get the studio to say yes to financing your movie, just let him be American. His character just kept making me think of the times I’ve seen world-weary done more effectively. In particular recently, with Gary Oldman’s character in the excellent TV show Slow Horses (on Apple TV+ now). Oldman is a jaded spy there, but it’s almost the same sort of thing.
So Rockwell gave me very little to latch onto, particularly in terms of his chemistry with Ronan. I get what they were trying to do with this film, but that central relationship never really clicked. Ronan was perfect, but Rockwell gave her very little back. In terms of other cast members, David Oyelowo’s Noël Coward-esque screenwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris was most entertaining, particularly in his scenes clashing with Brody’s cocksure director, Leo.
I don’t have a great deal to say about the rest of the cast. Not many of them stood out in any meaningful kind of way, which felt like a waste, particularly when you’ve got Ruth Wilson and the weird and wonderful Shirley Henderson (playing Agatha Christie). Shirley is the Scottish equivalent of Helena Bonham Carter, at least to me. Use her more.
Anyway, without going on and on, I guess I just want to say that this film is mildly amusing and fairly tight in its runtime. It’s a good Sunday afternoon movie, but it won’t blow your socks off. Not enough caper and not enough comedy, but as long as you know that going in, then maybe that’s OK.
I give it 3/5 stars.