Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas and more work through Rian Johnson's "Clue"-style murder mystery

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Everyone has a motive in "Knives Out," a clever if self-satisfied old-school whodunnit where a body turns up cold and everyone is a suspect.

Rian Johnson writes and directs this comic murder-mystery as a way of hitting reset after "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which was thrilling for everyone except "Star Wars" superfans. Unfortunately that's not a great group to rile up, and Johnson's mentions are probably still filled with bile on a daily basis, poor guy.     

"Knives Out" will help get him back on track. It's in the vein of "Clue" or the recent "Murder on the Orient Express," with a cast that's somewhere in the middle in terms of starpower.

"Captain America's" Chris Evans leads a troupe that includes Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey, a mystery novelist who winds up dead on his 85th birthday, and Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Katherine Langford and Jaeden Martell as the family members who maybe did it.

Or perhaps it was Ana de Armas, Harlan's caretaker. It's up to Daniel Craig's Detective Benoit Blanc to get to the bottom of things, which means painting everybody as a potential murderer until it's time for the plot to kick in whatever twist it's holding close to its vest. You weren't expecting things to unfold naturally and without incident, now were you?

Craig is clearly having a good time — as in "Logan Lucky," he's better when he lightens up — and Evans proves just as charming outside of his red, white and blues, though de Armas leaves the most lasting impression. The whodunnit doesn't so much matter as long as the journey getting there is fun, and "Knives Out" is just sharp enough to make the cut.

'Knives Out'

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13: PG-13 for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material

Running time: 130 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama  

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