The ABC Murders (2018) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

Hercule Poirot is a household name. With dozens of books about him, and a twenty-year series starring David Suchet, the BBC had an uphill battle to "re-imagine" him for one of Agatha Christie's most famous mysteries. The result does not feel much like Poirot, but is a decent mystery on its own terms.

Since his good friend Inspector Japp retired, Scotland Yard no longer has any interest in using the Belgian detective Poirot (John Malkovich) to solve crimes. Forced into his own retirment as a result, Poirot spends his days in bored idleness, until a mysterious string of letters arrive in the post. The local inspector (Rupert Grint) dismisses them as nonsense, but Poirot senses an unseen pattern and a threat. And when a dead woman turns up in an A-town, with A-initials, Poirot believes a serial killer is trying to entice them into a game of cat and mouse.

The story unfolds with strife between Crome (Grint) and Poirot, as they come to terms with trusting each other, and also follows the sinister story of a young pantyhose salesman, Cust (Eamon Farren), who seems to wander near all the victims. The result is an engaging and twisty tale with a lot of interesting side characters; the audience is never quite sure who to trust or distrust, and the series effectively gives out a lot of red herrings. The strongest thing it has to offer is the distrust between Crome and the great detective. With Japp out of the picture and Hastings nowhere in sight, Poirot has no allies and must earn the respect of a much younger and more skeptical man. How they come to terms with each other is a moving part of the story, which also peers into Poirot's tragic past and reveals his life before he immigrated to England.

Packed into the story is a political statement about allowing in refugees, since everyone distrusts Poirot due to his accent. And this Poirot bears almost no resemblance to Agatha Christie's fussy, self-important sleuth. He's reserved, withdrawn, broody, preoccupied with his past and his faith, and has no ego apart from his desire to appear younger by blackening his goatee. Malcovich is good at introspective acting but his Poirot is, for the most part, rather bland. Gone is the author's humor in which she pokes fun at her absurd detective, leaving only a dramatic piece. It's a solid three hour mystery, well acted and costumed, with a terrific musical score, plenty of twists and turns, and a good cast but... why call it Poirot if he... isn't?

Sexual Content:
A man overhears sexual sounds from the apartment above twice; he pays a woman to stand on his back and grind her broken heel into his open wounds to relieve a medical condition (the scene leads us to believe a sexual encounter is about to take place); a man walks in on a woman in the bath and takes away her towel (we see nothing); a woman sexually teases men, talks about them being a virgin, and flashes them her legs; it's implied a woman has spent the night with a man; a woman pimps out her daughter to her male tenants.
 
Language:
Uses of 'bastard,' 'bloody,' and other British slang; one f-word.
 
Violence:
Murders are never explicitly shown, just the bloody aftermath of strangulations, slit throats, and blood spattered across the pages of railway guides; a person is struck over the head; another person falls and breaks their ankle; a woman dashes wine into another woman's face; flashbacks to a church burning and people being shot in WWII.

 
Other:
The script turns Poirot into a persecuted immigrant to push a political agenda.