(On DVD, November 2017) There is something almost instantly comfortable in the way Clue sets up the clichés that make up its initial premise: the 1954 New England manor setting; the thunderstorm outside; the various characters taken from classic crime literature; the knowing butler (“I buttle, sir”) and, of course, Murder! The rest is just pure fun, as various mystery clichés are confronted, dropped, turned upside down and played with. Who knew that the brutal death of a singing telegram girl could be so funny? And yet—Clue, with savvy dialogue, knowing references to its board game origins, daring performances and decent physical comedy, hits whatever we’d expect from a talky comedy—writer/director Jonathan Lynn clearly knew what he was doing. Tim Curry is fantastic as the butler, growing more and more frantic until he hits a sustained high note of manic exposition (“Too Late!”) that is hard to forget. Alongside him, Coleen Camp is poured in a maid’s low-cut blouse, Lesley Ann Warren looks a lot like Susan Sarandon and Michael McKean delivers a sleeper performance that builds and builds until the end. It’s best to watch the film as a comedy first, and as a murder mystery as a distant second, as the film offers three contradictory endings to explain it all (the final one is most satisfying). Clue isn’t a great movie, but it’s definitely a good comedy, and its minor cult movie status is well deserved.
(On-demand video, March 2012) I could go on and on about this being the epitome of the quirky/funny low-budget British crime comedy if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a remake of French film Cible Émouvante. Still, Wild Target is short, dark, witty, quite funny and British to the core. Bill Nighy is up to his usual charming standards as a dapper, uptight hit-man contemplating getting away from it all, and he finds a great foil in the beautiful Emily Blunt as a flighty con artist needing protection who comes to change his regimented life. For a film that got nearly no press in North America, this is a very enjoyable surprise: the script is smarter than average, the actors look as if they’re having fun and the film perfectly doses a small amount of violence in this dark but not overly downbeat comedy. The dry humor doesn’t pander too much, and the film manages to remain interesting even when it abandons London (after a hilariously clever “car chase” through the City) for a small country estate. Wild Target‘s production qualities are fine for its low budget, Jonathan Lynn’s direction is generally unobtrusive and the result is worth a look. This is the kind of film that plays a lot better on the small screen as an “eh, might as well watch this one” choice than a big-screen event.