See How They Run (2022, Tom George)

Sam Rockwell can do an English accent. See How They Run occasionally has him use it but mostly has him stone-face while sidekick Saoirse Ronan amiably chatters away. The movie only asks Rockwell to act once or twice; he can do it with the accent. He’s not really a stunt cast because the movie doesn’t have him do anything, so it doesn’t get anything from him. He and Ronan are fine together. She’s the one who acts, he reacts, so their scenes all work off her momentum. For a while, it seems like the film’s building towards them as a duo, which works.

Sadly, it doesn’t end up going there, instead taking an ill-advised diversion involving a big-time Shining nod (though Amanda McArthur’s production design sets it up, lots of red carpets), where detective Rockwell talks to the murder victim at an art deco bar. It’s part of the second red herring suspect—as narrator Adrien Brody (an American film director in London adapting a stage play) would say, comes with the territory in a whodunit. See How They Run constantly reminds it’s a genre piece and shouldn’t be judged too harshly. Usually to modest but satisfactory effect. The problem with the second red herring suspect isn’t the red herring; it’s the lack of a third. They just go right into the finish, which involves bringing in the supporting cast and putting Rockwell and Ronan in a charming but pointless driving montage.

Because once the film inexplicably gives up on Ronan and Rockwell as a duo, it becomes a relatively engaging Agatha Christie spoof. Ronan and Rockwell were just diversions. Though then, the movie ditches the suspect pool to a fantastic cameo and an elaborate in-joke involving Brody’s film director before finally settling on being an unofficial advertisement for the Mousetrap, the longest-running play in the world.

See How They Run is set in 1953, during the first cast’s run, meaning someone is playing Richard Attenborough—Harris Dickinson. Dickinson is 6’1” and change. Attenborough was infamously shorter; pretty sure it was a plot point in at least one picture, if not more (he was 5’7”). The problem with Dickinson is he’s never a suspect. Neither he nor wife Pearl Chanda. It wouldn’t matter except the movie’s short murder suspects.

The first prime suspect is screenwriter David Oyelowo, who doesn’t get along with the victim. He doesn’t get along with the victim, Brody, his boyfriend Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, or anyone else. Oyelowo gets the film’s “and” credit; he’s the closest thing to a stunt cast.

And he’s not up for the task. He’s okay, but never anything more, once too often less. It’s an adequate performance, nothing more. Ruth Wilson and Brody are the other supporting cast members with the most to do. Brody’s amusing as the unlikable American, while Wilson’s only around to fill in backstory for other suspects.

Director George often uses a split screen device to show different characters’ perspectives. It’s almost good once, but it’s a padding gimmick. Run’s artificially enthusiastic.

Luckily, the cast and production are enough to get it through. It’s not a good star vehicle for Ronan, but she’s definitely the star in it. Until the third act, anyway. The third act’s a mess.

See How They Run’s fine. Affable, likable, engaging, disposable, which puts it ahead of the Mousetrap play if the samples are any indication.

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