An impressive cast in a derivative thriller

The murder mystery genre is one of the most popular types of entertainment. TV series, whether it’s a long-running procedural or limited series, films of all types of budgets and, of course, the mystery novel – people just can’t get enough of a good old thriller. We have been inundated with murder mystery films of varying quality. Rian Johnsonit is Knives out took the world by storm, so much so that a sequel is coming later this year. Such a busy genre can make some entries tedious and repetitive – every plot point meant to be surprised feeling like something we’ve seen many times before. Tom-Georges‘s murder mystery-comedy, See how they work, is an ode to traditional murder mystery – classy English accents, an array of distasteful characters, and a detective wearing a felt hat and woolen coat. And, of course, the queen of mystery herself – Agatha Christie.


Yes, the film has all the touchstones of a classic mystery, feeling both like a love letter to a Christie-esque tale and trying to be one itself.

The story takes place in London in 1953. A staging of Christie’s play, mousetrap, what stars Richard Attenborough and his wife, Sheila Sim, celebrates its 100th show. The cast is joined at the party by the trio of men who have been tasked with adapting the play into a film: John Woolf (Reece Mower), the famous producer behind The African QueenMervyn Cocker Norris (David Oyelowo, gloriously flamboyant way), the pompous playwright brought in to adapt the screenplay, and Leo Köpernick (Adrian Brody), the arrogant American alcoholic who is supposed to direct the film. Just when it is established that Köpernick is hated by nearly every other character, he is violently murdered in one of the theater’s dressing rooms. Join our detective duo: the tired and drunk Inspector Stoddard (Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker, a serious but somewhat stupid recruit (Saoirse Ronan).

Stoddard and Stalker embarked on a journey of violent threats, script rewrites, illegitimate children and, for some reason, numerous mentions of a dentist to finally find the truth. It seems everyone had a bone to pick with Köpernick, only making the network of potential suspects wider and wider.

As stated earlier, we are drowning in an endless sea of ​​mystery stories. At this rate, it takes a pretty remarkable script to keep things fresh and actually surprise an audience with a thriller. It’s especially difficult when you’re calling back to the genre’s earlier traditions while still meeting the expectations of a modern audience.

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See how they work, unfortunately, does not live up to this standard. It’s charming, it can be funny at times, and there’s a phenomenal cast who all seem to be having a really good time with it (maybe aside from Rockwell, more on that later) but it lacks an exciting, shocking or even decent crime novel. I don’t know if he’s trying to make a meta commentary on the state of the mystery genre and one of its adjacent true-crime contemporaries, and I can’t go into that without spoiling, but it falls to dish. The actual thriller lacks bite or “I should have known!” All you have to do is think “Oh… is that it?” It’s never a good sign when you’re expecting another plot twist because the first one is so satisfying and that’s what I told myself during the big reveal – “Please , tell me there is more to it.” Without any spoilers, it’s easy to shock audiences by paying little attention to certain characters who end up playing a bigger role, but it feels like a cheap loophole to fool audiences rather than a clever, cohesive mystery. .

The script doesn’t rely on tension throughout, instead relying on the red herring trope to keep the audience guessing. Sure, you still need it, but a red herring should always give way to an even more exciting truth. Yes, you might not see the actual thriller coming, and it’s bound to have an interesting backstory, but it’s so hidden from the public that it offers no ultimate reward. A satisfying, unsuspecting, and thrilling mystery is no easy task, but it’s the central driving force behind the narrative, making it easy to let the rest of the film crumble if it doesn’t deliver what all the fuss is about. history was built.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the lack of character detail. We hardly know any of them and yes we need an air of mystery so we don’t leak the game too quickly but if you don’t let the public know who they are dealing with they won’t care not. who is behind the murders. Ditto for our central cop pairing. To have a memorable mystery, you need an outstanding detective, and Stoddard and Stalker lack layers or depth – they feel as flat as the faceless characters they investigate.

Of Ruth Wilson at Harris DickonsonAmong the Oscar-winning and nominated headliners, there’s no denying that See how they work boasts an impressive cast, and this type of film sees a change in Ronan’s usual role choices. Of course, she did comedy with lady bird, but it’s the first time she’s fully leaned into a less serious role and unsurprisingly, she kills it. Even more impressive when the script gives him little to work on. The jokes she made can sometimes sound like they came out of a Christmas cookie – “What part of France are you from, sir?” she asks a hotel manager, “Belgium” he replies curtly. They laugh but in a more harmless way with dad’s humor. Either way, Ronan is engaged, and it’s just another reminder that there’s literally nothing the actress can’t do.

The great tragedy of the film is Rockwell. Watching him in this role is like a caged animal desperately trying to escape. Rockwell has proven over the past two decades that he is a tour de force character actor and his range knows no bounds. Here he has no decor to chew on. He’s a tired, drunk, bored cop who’s seen it all before. Sure, it makes for a fun juxtaposition with Ronan’s sunny, ambitious Stalker, but it takes away from everything we’ve come to the Rockwell movie for. Also, the seasoned disgruntled expert versus the doe-eyed rookie is one of the most overused character tropes in the mystery genre. Although you have two of the most talented actors working today, the characters just don’t come to life the way good detectives should.

The star is undoubtedly Oyelowo, and the British actor is obviously enjoying being on a lighter fare. He plays the famous writer with an air of glamorous arrogance and with an elegant and tasteful flamboyance, reminiscent of the less masculine icons of classic Hollywood like Laurence Oliver. For a film about the theater, Oyelowo happily brings the theatrics, every line rolling over his tongue as smooth as his gelled hair and mustache. It makes you wonder what could have been if he had played Poirot in Kenneth BranaghChristie’s recent adaptations.

In all, See how they work is an amalgam derived from too much homage and too little originality. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and the perfect movie to bring your Nana to, but it’s ultimately pretty forgettable. It kills two hours, and it’s worth checking out just for the casting itself – especially Ronan, as it’s always fun to see such a talented actor try his hand at something new. But for dedicated mystery fans who are constantly on the lookout for something fresh and new, keep looking.

Evaluation: VS

See how they work hits theaters September 16.

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