The one thing a good whodunnit should not do is put its audience to sleep. Unfortunately, this latest cinematic adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel fails miserably on this score. Director Kenneth Branagh’s third outing as Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot is a protracted snooze that leaves viewers caring little about the characters and even less about the story in which they’re trapped. When the famed detective (Branagh) – now in retirement in Venice – is called upon by a friend and author of murder mysteries (Tina Fey) to help her verify or discredit the psychic powers of a medium (Michelle Yeoh) at a séance at an allegedly haunted Venetian palazzo, he’s drawn into yet another of his famous investigations. The problem here is that what should be an engaging story is interminably dull, one that, regrettably, prompts frequent checking of one’s watch. Moreover, virtually the entire film is shot with excessively dark camera work (so much for showing off the glories of Venice). And then there are the performances, which feature good turns by Yeoh and Jude Hill but a positively wooden portrayal by Branagh (compared to his previous depictions of the protagonist) and an absolutely dreadful performance by a woefully miscast Fey. To its credit, like its recent predecessors, the production values of this Christie offering are top shelf, but that’s about all this release has going for it, a far cry from the much better overall work found in “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017) and “Death on the Nile” (2023). Indeed, even fans of the famed mystery writer are likely to find “A Haunting in Venice” tiresome and tedious. Pack a lunch for this one.
Manuel São Bento
FULL SPOILER-FREE REVIEW @ https://www.firstshowing.net/2023/review-kenneth-branaghs-a-haunting-in-venice-is-quite-the-horror-mystery/ "A Haunting in Venice is, by some margin, the best adaptation of the now trilogy featuring Hercule Poirot, correcting many of the mistakes of the past and utilizing Kenneth Branagh's innate talent as both filmmaker and actor to stand out as a darker, more atmospheric film. Exceptional performances, suspenseful sequences with intense build-ups, and a couple of genuinely intriguing mysteries that last until the very end. Some ambiguity surrounding its supernatural themes feels off in such a logic-driven world, just as not all characters deserve the allocated screen time. If this last installment is used as a solid base for new sequels, the saga has everything in its favor to continue…" Rating: B
Unlike his other two Christie adaptations featuring this character, this film does not have a previous, star-studded, version with which to compare. That's a good thing because this is certainly not one of the author's stronger stories. "Poirot" (Sir Kenneth Branagh) has retired to a sort of self-imposed exile in Venice where he sees nobody but the pastry chef. The arrival of fellow writer "Ariadne" (Tina Fey) teases what's left of his little grey cells and takes them to an old palazzo where there is to be a seance to try and ascertain what caused the strange death of the young "Alicia". He quickly discovers that those assembled consist a group of folks who all have baggage - individually, or with others from the party and of course, in the best 'Cleudo" style, one of them is duly murdered in a nigh-on impossible fashion. The last ten minutes of this is quite quirky and as usual with this writer we are presented with a fairly left-field solution, but I found the bulk of the remainder of the mystery to be presented in a stylish and classy-looking, but ponderous and lethargic fashion. It's way too wordy and the cast don't really gel together particularly well as the sense of peril really doesn't accumulate very much at all. It's nicely scored and shows off the beauty and the vulnerability of Venice but as a whodunnit, I felt it just lacked a little je ne sais quoi! Sir Kenneth is definitely trying to create a persona for his detective, and I am warming to that slightly (though he's no Peter Ustinov) but I found the writing rather too dry and I didn't really manage to get into this. Maybe one to watch a few times?
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