Murder Mystery (2019) • Netflix
A cop and his wife go on a European vacation to reinvigorate their marriage but end up framed for the death of an elderly billionaire.
Murder Mystery is a Netflix comedy about a couple — Nick (Adam Sandler) and Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston) — who take a trip to Europe for their 15-year wedding anniversary, only to become embroiled in a murder involving a billionaire and his avaricious relatives. Suddenly facing off against secret assassins and double-crossers, Nick and Audrey must handle these threats to their lives, but also save their marriage.
Nick’s an NYPD cop who failed a test to become a detective and lied to his wife Audrey about it, before ending an argument by booking them a dream trip to Europe. While on the flight, Audrey meets wealthy bachelor Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), who’s able to keep her in the First Class section simply by stating his name to the flight attendant. Perfectly Bond-like, Cavendish then invites the Spitz’s to join him on the luxury yacht of billionaire Malcolm Quince (Terrence Stamp) and, during the signing of a new Last Will & Testament, in which Quince theatrically announces he’ll pass on his inheritance to his new bride, Suzi (Shiori Kutsuna), a struggle ensues and Charles is murdered. And thus begins the titular murder mystery…
The dynamic of the seemingly innocent Spitz’s change when Inspector Laurent Delacroix (Dany Boon) arrives on the scene, makes it clear they’re his prime suspects. There’s a brilliant moment of tension between the two when Delacroix pointedly explains to Nick how he doesn’t trust him because he’s lied about being a detective to his spouse. This raises the stakes for Nick, who not only must clear the names of himself and Audrey but also try to prevent being exposed as dishonest.
Aniston portrays Audrey as someone giddy with excitement once the murder investigation gets underway, which only makes the fact she has no idea Nick’s lied to her about his detective credentials more suspenseful. She’s the leading performance of the cast, as Audrey possesses more passion during the story and shows more natural leadership. In a film that portrays the other female characters as money-hungry, unfaithful, and murderous, it’s worth noting that Audrey avoids most of those archetypes (except for ‘bored housewife’).
Suzi and actress Grace Ballard (Gemme Arterton) don’t receive the same treatment, alas. Both are depicted as unfaithful and promiscuous, using sex for financial gain at the expense of people's lives. Though Arterton and Kutsuna play their roles with enthusiasm — Arterton, in particular, holds her own against Aniston and Sandler— there’s ultimately not much here for them to do. Their characters could have been condensed into a single person, really.
Though both Audrey and Nick are hopeless sleuths compared to Inspector Delacroix, when they come together there’s a sense of authority about them. During a scene where the deduction about the killer is made, the Spitz, who’ve summoned everyone including Delacroix there, take control of the room, grilling everyone until finally announce with conviction who the killer is. Between Sandler’s subtle gags and Aniston’s emotional epiphanies, as well as their chemistry, the Spitz’s generally hold one’s attention.
As well as the lacklustre characterisation of supporting females, Vanderbilt dropped the ball with the movie’s final twist. The writer had been throwing curveballs and dropping red herrings throughout the story, giving it a sense of intricacy, but things are resolved very suddenly in an inconsequential way that’s very anticlimactic.
The film is wittier than Sandler’s earlier work, with the crudeness of his Happy Gilmore (1996) days replaced with more dialogue-orientated humour than physical slapstick. David Walliams and Adeel Akhtar both give standout performances as part of the supporting cast, too. Walliams plays Tobias, the camp son of billionaire Quince, with a typically snide and eccentric performance familiar from his Little Britain sketches. Akhtar plays Maharajah Vikram Govindan, whose use of slang and general way of talking is a definite highlight. Vikram and actress Grace get one of the funniest, most awkward scenes together, which is also one of the rare times Murder Mystery gives into juvenile, crude comedy. It is worth noting however that the scene is integral to the film’s denouement.
Seeing the characters getting killed one-by-one, with the Spitz’s narrowly escaping death, means the favourites are quickly established. While Murder Mystery meanders through the tropes of a Hollywood screwball comedy, as well as the structure of an Agatha Christie novel, it pulls viewers into the story and openly references all the ‘whodunit’ cliches. It won’t become anyone’s favourite comedy movie, but most will be entertained. It doesn’t register as boring or uninspired and plays to the strengths of its cast, who make the most of an enjoyable and funny story.
Cast & Crew
director: Kyle Newacheck.
writer: James Vanderbilt.
starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans, Gemma Arterton, Adeel Akhtar & Terence Stamp.