Murder mysteries are a huge cinematic trend in recent years. What started back to Agatha Christie’s classics with “Murder on the Orient Express” and“Death on the Nile” It also spread to original works such as the hit “Well written murder” and the upcoming film by director David O. Russell, “Amsterdam”.
Even on television we get a taste for style, with series like “Only murderers in the building” and“The After Party”. Among all these, stands the new film “Look at them running” (See How They Run). The very self-aware film might not exist at all if we weren’t at the height of the genre’s popularity, but it absolutely suffers from being one of many.
Look at them running – the plot
The film begins in London in 1953, during a party to mark 100 performances of the stage version of “The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie. A loathsome Hollywood director comes to the party (Adrien Brody), who describes himself as the most hated figure who will surely be murdered.
Indeed, within minutes the director finds himself a victim of the murder mystery. Detective Stoppard is attached to the affair (Sam Rockwell), who had already grown tired of his role and the young detective Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), who is overly enthusiastic about her first bag.
Clueless meta comedy
From the first sentence of the film, the characters themselves define it as having a typical murder mystery plot. A hated victim, a room full of suspects who each hate him for his own reasons and detectives who have to dig up information together with the audience until the final twist. The way the film tries to differentiate itself is by being “meta” and full of nods to the genre it is in and a direct reference to how worn out and predictable it is.
Unfortunately, the film’s comedic style fails to rise at any point and save this well-worn and predictable story. The jokes all stem from an attempt at self-awareness, but remain in the realm of cheap and lazy humor.
For example, in one scene a character jokes about the cheap cinematic device of the screen saying “three weeks later”, and immediately the screen changes to the exact same subtitle. Most of the jokes in the film work on this mechanism, with punches that can be guessed long before they are uttered, at least by those who have spent their lives watching Leslie Nielsen’s eighties films (“The Gun Dies of Laughter”).
Some stars shine brighter
Like any self-respecting murder mystery film, here too we are surrounded by an impressive line-up of familiar actors. Despite a large ensemble of stars, it seems that the characters in the film are not uniform in their level.
Rockwell’s detective and most of the group of suspects fail to stand out, and the film ends up resting entirely on the shoulders of the young detective.
Fortunately, Saoirse Ronan gives an impressive performance here that proves she just has to do more comedies. Ronan does do a good job of carrying the whole film on her back, but such an ensemble film can’t really work with just one good character.
When he is on the screen in flashbacks, Adrien Brody’s Hollywood director also manages to attract focus and interest, but this is also a problem when the most attractive character is that of the victim who is no longer alive. Brody’s magnetism mainly reminds us of the mediocrity of the other suspect theater actors.
Any Anglophiles in the audience?
“See them running” is a British film in all its parts. Its creators previously worked mainly in comedies and dramas for the BBC, and it is entirely based on the long-running play “The Mousetrap”, whose posters have at least been seen by everyone who has visited London since the 1950s.
It is possible that the British audience, who are very familiar with the play and even more so with the parodies made on it, will actually appreciate the humor and the attempt of “See Them Running” to say something new about the genre. But for a more global audience, there is a feeling that something in the film is going over the top.
Ultimately, there is an attempt here to convey a very British feel to a global audience with mostly American actors. But unlike a series like “Ted Lasso” for example, which managed to capture the essence of English and broadcast it successfully to the whole world to become a global hit, “See Them Running” fails to do so. Maybe she should have given up the wide distribution in advance and settled for a televised broadcast on the BBC.
Bottom line: What did we think of “Watch Them Run”?
As mentioned, the main problem with “See Them Running” is that it came at a time when we are overloaded with murder mystery movies and series, but most of them are not serious to begin with. Almost all modern works in the genre are more comical and full of self-awareness.
“Only murderers in the building” makes perfect meta humor. “Murder Well Written” loads twists faster than we can absorb them. In a world that has already brought us the top of the genre, “Watch Them Run” is just creeping slowly behind.
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