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Crooked House
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Crooked House

The most appealing element of a drawing-room mystery is usually the entrances of the characters, where we learn how their eccentricities clash with one another while a detective regards them intrepidly. Crooked House, though, embraces this trope with excruciating monotonousness, spending nearly 40 minutes introducing the spoiled and bitter inhabitants of an English mansion. In scene after scene, Charles Hayward (Max Irons), a private detective, questions a deceased rich businessman’s relatives, who taunt the investigator with suggestions of their complicity in the magnate’s murder. If the suspect is a man, he regards Hayward with hostility, and if she’s a woman, she shoots him come-hither eyes that suggest the possibility for illicit pleasure.

In the right hands, these moments can be the stylish highlights of a film, but they require subtext. In even the most routine murder mysteries, there’s often something going on underneath the exposition, whether it’s desire or resentment or an encroaching shift in a diseased hierarchy. By contrast, the self-consciously theatrical duets of Crooked House revel only in the star power of the film’s cast, with the characters’ motivations out in the open. This trust in the actors to transcend flimsy material is occasionally warranted, as is the case here with Glenn Close, Terence Stamp, Christian McKay, Julian Sands, and Gillian Anderson, who invest their various stereotypes with emotional fervency. But of these actors, only Close—playing Lady Edith—matters to the narrative, as the others are scattered about in anecdotes that whet our appetite for a crackling whodunit that never arrives.

Duration: 115 min


IMDb: 6.3

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