A none-more-meta murder-mystery that will either leave you tickled to within an inch of your life or wanting to bury a knife in someone’s back (don’t forget to wear gloves!), See How They Run is so self-referential, it makes Knives Out look like M.
I’m happy to report that it left me firmly in the tickled camp. The twisty storytelling is aided and abetted by some big laughs, standout performances from Saoirse Ronan as an overeager police constable and Sam Rockwell as her jaded detective partner, and a nostalgic reimagining of a richly upholstered post-war London where nylons are still rationed but booze flows freely.
And ‘camp’ is the operative word: the ace cast is given full license to eke every last drop of preposterousness from a screenplay that makes so merry with genre conventions. From Tim Key as a windbag police chief, to Ruth Wilson as a cynical theatre impresario, to David Oyelowo as a narcissistic screenwriter with a tempestuous Latin lover, the performances are riper than a fortnight-old fruit bowl.
The rotten apple at the heart of all this is revealed, but left unmasked, in the helter-skelter opening. The murder takes place backstage at a party to celebrate the 100th performance of The Mousetrap in London’s West End. Bumped off is odious American filmmaker Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody), the man charged with directing the film adaptation planned by philandering producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith).
This is a whodunnit that’s not always colossally interested in whodidit
This is a whodunnit that’s not always colossally interested in whodidit. Sure, there are red herrings and clues, as Rockwell and Ronan’s odd-couple pairing work through the suspects and the body count goes up. But it’s the thrill of the chase – and the chance to take the piss out of actorly pretensions (props to Harris Dickinson for going full hardcore luvvie as Dickie Attenborough), Hollywood egos and even – heaven forfend – Agatha Christie herself along the way that makes it a fun and seductive ride.
And it's fun, too, to watch See How They Run scatter about its obvious affection for the theatre and the movies – Rockwell’s cop is named after Tom Stoppard and there’s at least one seriously tortured namecheck for ‘The Real Inspector Hound’, while Shearsmith’s pompous movie mogul trots out old war stories from the set of The African Queen – and give that old survivor, ‘The Mousetrap’, a good goosing.
Okay, maybe sending up its own ending an hour before it actually happens is not as clever as it might have appeared on the page. But most of what this comic caper tries comes off pretty nicely. As Dickie might say: it's a bally good time, darling.
In UK cinemas Sep 9. Read our locations guide here.