See How They Run Review: A funny murder-mystery that struggles to reach its potential
Director Tom George’s feature directorial debut, See How They Run, is an original whodunnit murder-mystery with some solid comedic bite and intriguing ideas, but struggles to stay consistent.
The film follows the troubled Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and his new partner, the overly attentive and determined Constable Stalker (Saoisre Ronan), as they try to uncover the truth behind the murder of a controversial director (Adrien Brody) during the 100th production of a beloved murder-mystery stage play. See How They Run establishes itself with its tongue directly attached to its cheek from the start with how it delivers some comedic meta-styled storytelling. From the narration of Brody’s Leo in the opening offering a scathing but intriguing perspective on murder-mysteries to the play everyone’s performing in, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, being a pivotal part of the ongoing mystery, See How They Run really feels like a Scream-inspired murder-mystery.
The emphasis on being meta can show some strengths in creating some fun commentary on murder-mysteries, filmmaking, and storytelling and plays with the characters’ mindsets, especially Constable Stalker, in funny ways, but it goes a little overboard. Instead of See How They Run feeling like a refreshing homage to Agatha Christie-styled murder-mysteries, it feels like it overplays its hand on trying to be clever and cheeky with its storytelling. The way the film tries to cleverly spell out its plot and give winks and nods towards the audience can be incredibly obnoxious and take you out of the moment. At times, it feels like the film is trying way too hard to impress and rarely doing so since it starts to strip away its mystery a bit with how spelled out things are, and it fails to utilize its talented cast well.
There’s no doubt that this ensemble is full of great talent and there are a few big standouts that are a blast to watch. Rockwell and Ronin are a total treat to see paired together as they work with the film’s humor perfectly, especially Ronin, and make their characters engaging from the start. Ronin easily delivers the best performance of the film with how she makes Stalker’s quirky and commendable personality relatable and funny. Also, when Brody is on-screen, he’s also a lot of fun as he plays Leo’s more despisable qualities with some dirty charm and delivers some great narration. Truthfully, when the film isn’t totally stuck in its meta-textual humor, it can be very funny with the cast of personalities clashing in great ways and there being some great running gags throughout that constantly get a laugh.
Unfortunately, most of this cast is wasted and rarely utilized in the film. The wide cast of “suspects” are rarely touched on in meaningful ways during the film and the investigation rarely moves out of spotlighting a singular suspect. Thus, a lot of the characters add nothing to the film and the story struggles to stay engaging because of how little there is to think about. Generally, with a whodunnit, you have a lot of story threads and motivations to keep in mind, but here you’re constantly stuck to one real idea, and it makes for a dull viewing experience. Admittedly though, there are some cool ideas in See How They Run that do start to flip the murder-mystery on its head.
The entire second act does keep you hooked with the surprising route it takes in who Stalker thinks the murderer is. Also, the final reveal is actually really well done with the motivation being a meta idea that works in legitimately making you think about the impact that art and artists have on those they take inspiration from. See How They Run does boast some good ideas when it comes to storytelling, but it desperately needed to branch out more and not overly focus on meta storytelling to keep itself fresh.
See How They Run can be a fun and funny murder-mystery with some good ideas, laughs, and performances, but sadly never reaches its potential due to its over-reliance on meta nods to its genre and its inability to utilize its cast well.