Right, let’s get this out the way first: I’m not much of an Agatha Christie fan. Never have been, never will be. The slight disappointment of last year’s much-hyped Murder on the Orient Express seemed to prove that I’ve been justified about at least one thing in my life.
It’s fair to say then, that I wasn’t expecting a great deal when I sat down for Crooked House. Which is perhaps just as well because, valiant attempt though it is, this is a film that probably only diehards would truly appreciate.
That’s not to say this crime drama is without its good points; far from it. Let’s start with the cast, because it really is sent from the gods. Glenn Close, Terence Stamp, Gillian Anderson? All that’s needed is Robert DeNiro to make the unlikeliest of appearances and we’d have the greatest line-up since Brazil won the 1970 World Cup. What’s more is that this helps to deliver the direction the movie requires; it’s all about the characters here, the mystery itself can well and truly take a backseat. You could say it’s almost a little too character-driven in places though. I mean, we all want a fair crack at solving the mystery, don’t we?
The main relationship of the piece, between the detective Charles Hayward and his old flame Sophia Leonides, seems to lack in terms of chemistry. Perhaps this is due to the passionate performances elsewhere, but it is a little disappointing, especially when even a Jazz club scene strangely reminiscent of Pulp Fiction fails to deliver. The way the characters are played in general also seems rather too polished at times, and more than a little stereotypical.
To give Max Irons (Hayward) some credit, he does play the part with a good blend of cockiness and vulnerability, conveying the sense that this truly is someone who got where he is because of who, and not what, he knows, and so is being constantly undermined at every turn because of it. A special mention must also go to Honor Kneafsey, who is surely a young star in the making on the basis of this performance.
But like all decent stories of this ilk, it will have you shouting at the TV screen or at a dead loss – either way, you’ll be nowhere near solving the mystery (unless you’ve read the book). As the murder victim seems to universally disliked, there are motives aplenty, making the task even more difficult.
There’s plenty of good stuff here, but Agatha Christie is Agatha Christie, and the setting, characters and all the rest of the usual hallmarks will never change. It’s guaranteed that you won’t feel any different than you did two hours ago.