It’s a pleasure to write this particular piece about Rian Johnson as over the last 10 years or so, he’s become one of my best friends in Hollywood; the perfect person to talk to at 8 a.m. over coffee or at 2 a.m. over some other brown liquid. He’s terribly clever (but never annoyingly so), a good listener, and a generous laugher. He’s also always dressed like a cool college professor, which makes him both easy to draw and dress up as for Halloween. In the interest of full disclosure, I did make a cameo in his “Star Wars” episode and my last movie, “Baby Driver,” is alluded to in his new one. So you’d be forgiven for assuming all this chumminess would result in Rian’s movie getting a glowing review from me no matter what.
But here’s the thing. Not only do I genuinely LOVE this film, but it’s exactly the type of movie that Hollywood needs and audiences are crying out for. “Knives Out” is superb entertainment that proves you can please a crowd without ever talking down to them. It’s endlessly smart, fiendishly plotted, and populated with a cast clearly loving every acid-soaked line flung their way. So much cinema is divided into just two food categories these days. There’s the empty calories of the bloated green-screen pantomimes that clog up every auditorium at your local multiplex. Then there’s what I call broccoli films; those worthy, good-for-you productions that can be very nourishing, but sometimes (whisper it) a little dull. Rian’s murder mystery straddles the line perfectly; an entertainment for grown-ups that nods to classic studio thrillers but with an invigorating 21st century overhaul. Rian is making the brainy, big screen crowd-pleasers we truly deserve. For that alone, give him all the awards.
Edgar Wright is the director of such films as “Baby Driver,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “The World’s End” and the upcoming “Last Night in Soho.”