Critical Condition: The ABC Murders

The ABC Murders | SoHo, 9.30 Wednesday

☆☆☆☆ “The British screenwriter Sarah Phelps has been taking liberties with Agatha Christie’s mystery tales, on behalf of the Christie estate and the BBC, for a while now … The ABC Murders is Phelps’s most thorough teardown yet, and this time she’s so suffocatingly revisionist that what’s left isn’t really Christie at all. The insistence on making everything grimmer and grosser is almost comically complete.” — New York Times.

☆☆☆☆ “John Malkovich … is quite magnificent as a suffering Hercule, beset by flashbacks to what seems to be his younger self during the invasion of Belgium and letters from someone signing himself ‘ABC’ and promising mayhem. He is not prim but careful, watchful – of others and perhaps even himself, as although Poirot’s glory days have passed (he even dyes his facial hair), the latent violence in this Malkovich performance is as potent as ever.” — The Guardian.

☆☆☆ “Slow-moving but intense, intriguing and nightmarishly atmospheric … Doubtless Malkovich won’t have been to every taste – especially to those who despair of adaptors and actors tampering with authors’ original visions. But by offering a thoughtful new take on such a well-trodden brand, this Poirot made me sit up and watch – and long to see how things develop.” — The Telegraph.

☆☆☆☆ “It’s difficult to imagine what Phelps is trying to achieve by making her series so viscerally icky, and so intent on stirring things—and people—up. She ends her adaptation by inventing a backstory for Poirot that’s entirely disproved by Christie’s books, and that seems to end this incarnation of the pompous private investigator right in its tracks. Which, in the end, feels like no loss at all.” — The Atlantic.

☆☆☆☆ “The intersection of John Malkovich and Hercule Poirot is a curious place to spend a few hours, partly because there’s almost no physical resemblance at all between actor and character. But it’s also because Mr. Malkovich—who has never exhibited any discernible aversion to overacting—mines Poirot’s nature rather quietly, even mournfully, putting his own spin on a figure that Christie herself was calling ‘insufferable’ as early as 1930.” — Wall Street Journal.

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