CROOKED HOUSE (2017)
Starring Max Irons, Stefanie Martini, Glenn Close, Terence Stamp, Christian McKay, Gillian Anderson, Julian Sands, Christina Hendricks, Honor Kneafsey, Amanda Abbington, Preston Nyman, Jenny Galloway, John Heffernan, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Madeleine Hyland, Trevor Cooper, Andreas Karras, Petros L. Ioannou, David Cann, Tina Gray and Gino Picciano.
Screenplay by Julian Fellowes & Tim Rose Price and Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Distributed by Vertical Entertainment. 115 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Nearly 100 years on since her first book was published, and over 40 years after her death, the mystery novels of Agatha Christie are having a renaissance. The classic British parlor mysteries are not only selling well, the first two new books featuring Christie’s famous sleuth character Hercule Poirot have been released since Christie’s death in 1976 (and the character’s death in her second-to-last book Curtain.)
The British series Poirot made television adaptations of many of her great novels over a period of time from 1989-2013. In the last few years, the BBC has also made acclaimed mini-series based on the novel And Then There Were None and the short story Witness for the Prosecution. Just a month or two ago, Kenneth Branagh starred in an all-star big-screen adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.
Now, with little fanfare they have slipped out yet another film version of a Christie novel, Crooked House. One of the few Christie novels which did not feature Poirot, or Christie’s other well-known detectives Miss Marple or Tommy & Tuppance Beresford, this novel was supposed to be one of Christie’s favorite books. It certainly has the pedigree, a fine cast (Glenn Close, Christina Hendricks, Gillian Anderson, Terrence Stamp and more) and it was co-written by the creators of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey.
So why is this film being dumped into theaters like a thief in the night? Here in Philadelphia, I never even heard of the film being made until it was released on one screen – out in the Philly suburbs, ferchrissake – with only two daily screenings.
Part of it may have to do with the fact that the film is being released to video on demand at the same time as this very limited theatrical release. And I’ll even go so far to say that while it has an awesome setting, this is probably not a film that would lose much by watching it on the small-screen.
So, is this film worthy of such distribution shyness? Probably not. It is a well-acted and sumptuously filmed parlor house mystery. The characters are mostly colorful, eccentric and scheming. Pretty much everyone has a motive for the killing. It does have a legitimately surprising trick ending.
Sadly, one of the weak points is the detective, a handsome young man named Charles Hayward played by Max Irons (son of Jeremy). Not an indictment of Irons’ performance, it’s just Hayward is a rather dull character, which is probably the reason that Christie never wrote about him again.
Crooked House is a little slow-moving, but that is somewhat expected in an old-fashioned parlor house mystery. Sadly, director Paquet-Brenner, whose last film was a similarly under-promoted adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s much-more-modern mystery novel Darker Places, is not a very distinctive director. His films are technically fine, but do not stand out artistically.
Still, Crooked House is probably more faithful to the source material than the much slicker Murder on the Orient Express, which was trying too hard to court a younger audience. The mystery is sufficiently thorny, and the ending is enough of a shock to make Crooked House worth a viewing.
If you want to see it on the big screen, get a move on, I doubt it will play theaters more than a week. Otherwise, it will be easy enough to find on demand for a while.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 22, 2017.