Knives Out

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When I saw Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019) at my local Cinemark I disliked it. Seeing Knives Out two years later I like it even less. Johnson’s film is as visually uncompelling as it is politically “safe”. Knives Out trades on familiar genre tropes while reaffirming white liberal notions of the political right in a sophomoric bid to be taken seriously (as if Agatha Christie had written Spanglish). Knives Out is “white elephant art” to the core.

The film features an ensemble cast that Robert Altman would have envied. Unfortunately Johnson’s script gives Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, and Don Johnson little to do besides convey some rudimentary archetypes the likes of which one sees in a “how to” book about screenwriting. The late Christopher Plummer is effective, as is Chris Evans, though neither appear to be taking Johnson’s film as seriously as he does. Daniel Craig, on the other hand, goes for caricature with the reckless abandon of a Looney Tunes Cartoon character. So in the end it’s Ana de Armas who shines as the legal immigrant with more virtue than the Virgin Mary.

Johnson’s preoccupations with class permeate Knives Out yet he never really makes a clear statement. The film pussyfoots around a few controversial ideas, but he never commits to a stance. Actually, the one stance he does take is that legal immigrants with a heart of gold are an awesome fetish property for a blockbuster to have. Johnson’s insistence that Ana de Armas is a vessel for righteousness undoes almost all of her character work. It’s the objectification of idolatry.

For whatever reason Knives Out caught the zeitgeist. With every passing year Knives Out will feel more and more dated, more and more irrelevant. There’s nothing in Knives Out that can’t be found somewhere else and done better. Obviously if it hadn’t been such a commercial sensation there would not be any forthcoming sequels.