Knives Out

Knives Out

2019, PG-13, 130 min. Directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Noah Segan, Edi Patterson.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Nov. 29, 2019

The secluded Victorian mansion in Knives Out is an architecturally ideal setting for this throwback murder mystery, a Winchester House floor plan of hidden staircases, twisty hallways, and concealed windows. Its stately décor of Oriental rugs and stuffed animals in dimly lit rooms walled by mahogany panels just begs for a corpse to appear. That entreaty is answered within minutes of the movie when a startled housekeeper (an underused Patterson, so comically unnerving in HBO’s Vice Principals) finds her elderly employer, the wealthy crime novelist and publisher Harlan Thrombey (Plummer), lifelessly sprawled on a bloody divan one morning, his throat cut in an apparent act of suicide following a dysfunctional gathering of offspring celebrating his 85th birthday the night before. (Not surprisingly, each of the family members at the party has a financial motive for killing the old man.) The dominant element of this whodunit’s set design is a literal-minded sculpture of ringed daggers hovering over the skullduggery afoot in this affectionate nod to Agatha Christie’s parlor-game puzzlers. Like the metaphorical doughnut of swirling clues perplexing Benoit Blanc (Craig), the private eye with the name of a cheap Chardonnay, this jarring artwork seemingly suspended in midair has a hole at its center, an open space eluding closure in the same way the truth eludes Blanc, who’s convinced the patriarch was the victim of foul play.

The screenplay by director and screenwriter Johnson (Brick, Looper) flips the script to prematurely divulge the howdunit early on, though intuition tells you there’s more than meets the eye. But it never seriously invites you to solve the crime as Watson to Blanc’s Sherlock, the plot’s complications stepping way beyond any reasonable deductive capability you could have. The movie’s wit and energy hold your interest, but they don’t spark the pleasure of the unexpected, the thrill you felt in Laura, The Last of Sheila, Chinatown, The Sixth Sense, or the 1974 adaptation of Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (not Kenneth Branagh’s inept remake), movies whose big reveals surprise you in their elegant simplicity. No question, the mix of the old and the new in the perfectly titled Knives Out is cerebrally enticing, but any wow factor is as muted as Steve Yedlin’s cinematography.

The cast of familial suspects is played by dependably stalwart actors like Collette and Shannon, but the characterizations are a little thin. Even Evans’ performance as the smarmy prodigal grandson, Ransom Drysdale, is pretty much summed up by his character’s snobby name. Craig’s dapper, Dixie-drawling sleuth and enchanting de Armas’ Marta, the dead man’s naive caretaker whose regurgitative reaction to untruthfulness is an amusing parasympathetic response central to the movie’s plotline, are more memorable, probably because the roles are better rounded. But when the worm turns and the movie’s ensemble of disinherited progeny indignantly clamor after learning the gravy train has derailed, the collective avarice displayed by the secondary cast of characters is almost giddy. To elaborate on Gordon Gekko’s philosophy: Greed is definitely good when it’s this funny.

Showtimes

Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz

320 E. Sixth, 512/861-7020, www.drafthouse.com/austin/theater/ritz

Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily by phone or website.

Sun., Dec. 15

6:35, 7:10

Mon., Dec. 16

7:00

Tue., Dec. 17

7:00

Sun., Dec. 15

10:15am, 1:35, 4:50, 8:05, 11:20

Mon., Dec. 16

1:35, 4:50, 8:05, 11:20

Tue., Dec. 17

4:50, 8:05, 11:20
AFA 1:35

Wed., Dec. 18

10:20am, 1:35, 4:50, 8:05, 10:25

Sun., Dec. 15

11:45am, 3:15, 7:15, 10:30

Mon., Dec. 16

11:55am, 3:10, 6:25, 10:15

Tue., Dec. 17

3:55, 6:15, 9:35
AFA 12:40

Wed., Dec. 18

11:50am, 3:05, 6:20, 9:45

Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane

5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060, drafthouse.com/austin/theater/slaughter-lane

Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

Sun., Dec. 15

9:50am, 1:50, 5:00, 8:15

Mon., Dec. 16

12:35, 3:00, 6:25, 9:35

Tue., Dec. 17

3:40, 7:00, 10:30
AFA 12:40, 2:00

Wed., Dec. 18

12:40, 2:40, 3:20, 5:00, 8:30

Sun., Dec. 15

9:10am, 12:25, 3:35, 6:45, 10:10

Mon., Dec. 16

12:45, 4:10, 6:30, 9:50

Tue., Dec. 17

3:55, 7:30, 10:45
AFA 12:35

Wed., Dec. 18

12:10, 3:40, 7:10, 10:40

Alamo Drafthouse Village

2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030, www.drafthouse.com/austin/theater/village

Tuesday matinee Baby Day shows (first show of the day) are intended for parents and their children younger than 6. Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

Sun., Dec. 15

10:15am, 1:50, 3:50, 7:00, 10:15

Mon., Dec. 16

11:50am, 3:40, 6:30, 9:45

Tue., Dec. 17

3:00, 7:00, 9:30
AFA 1:15

Wed., Dec. 18

11:30am, 2:45, 6:30, 9:45

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy, 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Sun., Dec. 15

CC/DVS 12:40, 4:10, 7:10, 10:20

Mon., Dec. 16

CC/DVS 1:40, 4:40, 7:40

Tue., Dec. 17

CC/DVS 1:40, 4:40, 7:40

Wed., Dec. 18

CC/DVS 1:40, 4:40, 7:40

Cinemark 20 and XD

N. I-35 & FM 1825, 512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

Sun., Dec. 15

digital 9:35am, 10:45am, 12:45, 3:55, 5:30, 7:05, 10:15

Mon., Dec. 16

digital 12:45, 3:55, 5:30, 7:05, 10:15

Tue., Dec. 17

digital 12:45, 3:55, 5:30, 7:05, 10:15

Wed., Dec. 18

digital 12:45, 3:55, 5:30, 7:05, 10:15

Cinemark Cedar Park

1335 E. Whitestone, Cedar Park, 800/326-3264

Call theatre for complete list of movies and showtimes.

Sun., Dec. 15

digital 11:40am, 2:50, 6:15, 9:15

Mon., Dec. 16

digital 11:40am, 2:50, 6:15, 9:15

Tue., Dec. 17

digital 11:40am, 2:50, 6:15, 9:15

Wed., Dec. 18

digital 11:40am, 2:50, 6:15, 9:15

Thu., Dec. 19

digital 11:40am, 2:50

Sun., Dec. 15

digital 10:15am, 11:50am, 1:20, 4:25, 7:35, 9:10, 10:35

Mon., Dec. 16

digital 11:50am, 1:20, 3:00, 4:25, 6:05, 7:35, 9:10, 10:35

Tue., Dec. 17

digital 11:50am, 1:20, 3:00, 4:25, 6:05, 7:35, 9:10, 10:35

Wed., Dec. 18

digital 11:50am, 1:20, 3:00, 4:25, 6:05, 7:35, 9:10, 10:35

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sun., Dec. 15

digital 10:30am, 1:40, 6:20, 9:25

Mon., Dec. 16

digital 10:30am, 1:40, 4:45, 7:50

Tue., Dec. 17

digital 10:30am, 1:40, 4:45, 7:50

Wed., Dec. 18

digital 10:30am, 1:40, 4:45, 7:50

Cinemark Stone Hill Town Center

18820 Hilltop Commercial Dr., 512/251-0938, www.cinemark.com

Sun., Dec. 15

digital 10:15am, 2:00, 5:30, 8:45

Mon., Dec. 16

digital 12:45, 4:30, 8:00

Tue., Dec. 17

digital 12:45, 4:30, 8:00

Wed., Dec. 18

digital 12:45, 4:30, 8:00

City Lights Theatre

420 Wolf Ranch Parkway, Georgetown, 512/868-9922

Sun., Dec. 15

1:15, 4:15, 7:25, 10:20

Mon., Dec. 16

1:15, 4:15, 7:25, 10:20

Tue., Dec. 17

1:15, 4:15, 7:25, 10:20

Wed., Dec. 18

1:15, 4:15, 7:25, 10:20

EVO Entertainment

3200 Kyle Crossing, Kyle, 512/523-9009, www.evo-entertainment.com

Sun., Dec. 15

10:45am, 1:45, 4:45, 7:50, 10:45

Mon., Dec. 16

10:45am, 1:45, 4:45, 7:50, 10:45

Tue., Dec. 17

10:45am, 1:45, 4:45, 7:50, 10:45

Wed., Dec. 18

10:45am, 1:45, 4:45, 7:50, 10:45

Flix Brewhouse

2200 S. I-35, Round Rock, 512/244-3549, www.flixbrewhouse.com/round-rock

Sun., Dec. 15

9:30am, 4:00, 4:45, 7:45, 8:30

Mon., Dec. 16

12:45, 3:30, 6:45, 8:15, 10:00

Tue., Dec. 17

12:30, 2:45, 7:30, 9:45

Wed., Dec. 18

12:45, 4:15, 7:00, 10:00

Thu., Dec. 19

11:15am, 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, 8:30

Galaxy Highland 10

6700 Middle Fiskville, 512/467-7305, www.galaxytheatres.com

No one under 18 will be allowed in the theatre on Friday or Saturday after 7pm without an adult.

Sun., Dec. 15

CC 10:20am, 1:40, 4:50, 8:00, 11:00

Mon., Dec. 16

CC 10:20am, 1:40, 4:50, 8:00, 11:00

Tue., Dec. 17

CC 10:20am, 1:40, 4:50, 8:00, 11:00

Wed., Dec. 18

CC 10:20am, 1:40, 4:50, 8:00, 11:00

iPic Theaters Austin

3225 Amy Donovan Plaza, 512/568-3400, www.ipic.com

Sun., Dec. 15

11:20am, 2:45, 6:00, 9:30

Mon., Dec. 16

11:20am, 2:45, 6:00, 9:30

Tue., Dec. 17

11:20am, 2:45, 6:00, 9:30

Wed., Dec. 18

11:20am, 2:45, 6:00, 9:30

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 N. FM 620, Bldg. B, 512/501-3520, www.themoviehouse.com/trails/

Sun., Dec. 15

2:30, 6:00, 9:25

Mon., Dec. 16

2:30, 6:00, 9:25

Tue., Dec. 17

3:45, 6:00, 10:00

Wed., Dec. 18

2:30, 6:00, 9:25

Moviehouse & Eatery - Lantana Place

7415 Southwest Parkway, Building 7, 512/572-0770, www.themoviehouse.com/lantana/

Sun., Dec. 15

12:00, 3:30, 7:00, 10:30

Mon., Dec. 16

12:00, 3:30, 7:00, 10:30

Tue., Dec. 17

12:00, 3:30, 7:00, 10:30

Wed., Dec. 18

12:00, 3:30, 7:00, 10:30

Schulman Theatres Lost Pines 8

1600 Chestnut St, Bastrop, 512/321-0123, www.schulmantheatres.com

Sun., Dec. 15

10:05am, 1:10, 4:20, 7:30, 10:45

Mon., Dec. 16

10:05am, 1:10, 4:20, 7:30, 10:45

Tue., Dec. 17

10:05am, 1:10, 4:20, 7:30, 10:45

Wed., Dec. 18

10:05am, 1:10, 4:20, 7:30, 10:45

ShowBiz Cinemas 8 Marble Falls

2600 Hwy 281 North, Marble Falls

Call theatre for August 22-23 showtimes.

Sun., Dec. 15

10:40am, 1:35, 4:25, 7:20

Mon., Dec. 16

1:20, 4:25, 7:20

Tue., Dec. 17

1:20, 4:25, 7:20

Wed., Dec. 18

1:20, 4:25, 7:20

Thu., Dec. 19

1:35, 4:25

Sky Cinemas

13201 US-290, 512/457-0700, www.skycinemas.com

Sun., Dec. 15

11:45am, 12:35, 1:10, 2:30, 3:30, 4:25, 6:00, 7:20, 9:35, 10:15

Mon., Dec. 16

11:45am, 12:35, 1:10, 2:30, 3:30, 4:25, 6:00, 7:20, 9:35, 10:15

Tue., Dec. 17

11:45am, 12:35, 1:10, 2:30, 3:30, 4:25, 6:00, 7:20, 9:35, 10:15

Wed., Dec. 18

11:45am, 12:35, 1:10, 2:30, 3:30, 4:25, 6:00, 7:20, 9:35, 10:15

Sun., Dec. 15

10:30am, 4:10, 7:15, 10:35

Mon., Dec. 16

10:30am, 4:10, 7:15, 10:35

Tue., Dec. 17

10:30am, 4:10, 7:15, 10:35

Wed., Dec. 18

10:30am, 4:10, 7:15, 10:35

Starplex 12 San Marcos

1250 Wonder World Drive, San Marcos, 512/805-8000

Sun., Dec. 15

11:00am, 1:55, 4:50, 7:45, 10:45

Mon., Dec. 16

12:30, 3:45, 7:00, 10:15

Tue., Dec. 17

12:30, 3:45, 7:00, 10:15

Wed., Dec. 18

12:30, 3:45, 6:45, 9:45

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second, 512/495-9600, www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

Sun., Dec. 15

11:00am, 12:30, 3:15, 4:50, 6:00, 7:30, 8:45, 9:50

Mon., Dec. 16

2:00, 3:15, 4:45, 6:00, 7:30, 8:45, 9:50

Tue., Dec. 17

2:00, 3:15, 4:45, 6:00, 7:30, 8:45, 9:50

Wed., Dec. 18

2:00, 3:15, 4:45, 6:00, 7:30, 8:45, 9:50

Thu., Dec. 19

2:00, 3:15, 4:45

Westgate 11

4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-2717

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sun., Dec. 15

CC/DVS 11:10am, 12:00, 3:00, 7:15, 9:00

Mon., Dec. 16

CC/DVS 12:30, 3:30, 6:30, 9:30

Tue., Dec. 17

CC/DVS 12:30, 3:30, 6:30, 9:30

Wed., Dec. 18

CC/DVS 12:30, 3:30, 6:30, 9:30

Thu., Dec. 19

CC/DVS 11:15am, 2:30, 5:05, 6:15, 9:15

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Rian Johnson
Show and Tell With Rian Johnson
Show and Tell With Rian Johnson
Revisiting the high school noir ‘Brick’ at AFF

Kimberley Jones, Oct. 26, 2013

More Rian Johnson Films
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
A stellar entry into the beloved franchise

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 15, 2017

Looper
Crackerjack thrills, time travel, violence, humor, and action: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are characters who share the same morally conflicted core.

Kimberley Jones, Sept. 28, 2012

More by Steve Davis
Richard Jewell
Eastwood's latest assault on the establishment mangles its own history

Dec. 13, 2019

Ford v Ferrari
Enduring male bonding cuts through racetrack noise and paddock politics

Nov. 15, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Knives Out, Rian Johnson, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Noah Segan, Edi Patterson

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle