Home Reviews Film Film Review: A HAUNTING IN VENICE (2023): Kenneth Branagh is Back as Poirot but This Thriller Comes Up a Bit Short

Film Review: A HAUNTING IN VENICE (2023): Kenneth Branagh is Back as Poirot but This Thriller Comes Up a Bit Short

Film Review: A HAUNTING IN VENICE (2023): Kenneth Branagh is Back as Poirot but This Thriller Comes Up a Bit Short

Ghost Kenneth Branagh A Haunting In Venice

A Haunting in Venice Review

A Haunting in Venice (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Kenneth Branagh, written by Michael Green and Agatha Christie and starring Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Camille Cottin, Kelly Reilly, Jude Hill, Dylan Corbett-Bader, Amir El-Masry, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kyle Allen, Fernando Piloni, Lorenzo Acquaviva, David Menkin, Emma Laird and Stella Harris.

Set in Venice, 1947, Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot returns to solve yet another mystery in the mediocre new thriller, A Haunting in Venice. This time out the suspense is sprinkled with supernatural overtones that make one believe things are happening that have no logical explanation. At the end, though, you can count on the detail-oriented Poirot to save the day with his long-winded discussions of every single thing that transpired in the main sections of the film. Poirot films have been enjoyable before but the supernatural twists here lessen the quality of the movie since, at the core of the picture, there are actually grounded explanations that will not satisfy all audiences.

This film reunites folks from Branagh’s own acclaimed film, Belfast, including the charming kid from the movie, Jude Hill. Jamie Dornan (the dad from Belfast) is also in this new picture. These three may reunite on screen but the magic the three had brought to the screen in Belfast is lost in the movie’s shuffle alongside its rather dreary nature. Branagh wasn’t in Belfast but he directed it and has the ability to bring the best out of the cast of A Haunting in Venice. However, the script isn’t worthy of their efforts.

There are some welcome additions to the cast, including Tina Fey and Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh. Fey comes up aces in her remarkable turn as book writer, Ariadne Oliver, whose life (alongside the lives of others) influences her art. The plot kicks into gear at a Halloween seance where Yeoh (always reliable)’s ex-nurse character, Joyce Reynolds (now a medium), comes to try to connect with the spirit of Alicia Drake (Rowan Robinson) who killed herself. But, if she killed herself, there would be no movie so alas, Poirot will get to the bottom of what really happened. Kelly Reilly serves as Alicia’s mom, Rowena Drake, who says she misses her daughter terribly.

Dornan and Hill once again play father and son. Dornan’s surgeon character is named Leslie Ferrier and Hill is Leopold. There are too many other suspects to name them all but gathered in the film are characters such as “the hired help,” an ex nun named Olga (a fine Camille Cottin) and Alicia’s ex lover, Maxime (Kyle Allen).

Fey and Branagh have a fine rapport on screen and play off each other like masters of the acting game when they’re shooting the breeze about life early in the picture. Fey’s Ariadne Oliver seems too good to be true, though, and this leads to some twisty plot developments later in the movie. Fey excels in all these scenes and proves she can do more than just on-screen comedy efficiently.

Shadow puppets are used in one scene to scare the kid guests who have come out on Halloween and this brief scene is an example of the movie using some aspects of horror effectively. As people start dying, though, so does the movie’s effectiveness at conveying the thematic elements of the movie. The more people die, the more it seems like this is not really about a haunting in Venice but rather a movie about a disgruntled so and so who is…well I can’t reveal those plot details here now can I?

Movies like A Haunting in Venice work best with a storm and this film employs one to help keep the audience invested in the action. Dead bodies turn up enough whenever necessary to keep people watching but the film feels curiously flat at times, lacking the depth of the previous Poirot movies. Characters feel stereotypical and bland. The movie also feels desperate at the end throwing in one too many plot twists willy-nilly.

Jude Hill is a fine young talent and gets some moments to really shine in the picture. Of course, revealing why his scenes are so good would involve divulging a major plot development which I will not do, However, Hill has an excellent grasp of his role and has a good connection with Branagh in the movie that works to the film’s advantage. But, this film is certainly not even close to the terrific Belfast.

A Haunting in Venice promised supernatural elements to the plot and occasionally delivers on those promises but smarter audiences will figure out quickly that this is just another Poirot movie at its core and not a very good one at that. The acting is not the movie’s problem. It’s that the creepiness factor is undermined by the fact that when the killer is revealed it all sort of feels a bit obvious. Poirot movies have felt obvious before but never as much as in this film.

That being said, Branagh does the best he can to keep Poirot likable and I, for one, would be up for another movie in the series. Next time, just don’t promise the audience scary ghosts and give them less than what was promised in the resolutions. This is ultimately just another Poirot movie, for better or worse, and is only worth seeing if you loved the previous films in the series.

Rating: 6/10

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