Poker Face

Poker Face

2023 - United States

“delivers a unique take that elevates it above other offerings in the genre”

Poker Face reviewed by Jennifer AJ

From Rian Johnson, the mind behind the Knives Out franchise, comes another thrilling detective story in a 10-part series. Rian single-handedly revived the classic murder mystery format with the success of 2019’s Knives Out. The star-studded flick not only lifted beloved iconographies from the pantheon of classics like Sherlock Holmes and Clue, but also patented his own stylistic flair and penchant for trope subversion. He’s done it again for Poker Face.

Poker Face tv series

The Peacock series revolves around Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne – Russian Doll), a casino worker with a preternatural ability to detect lies. Following a series of tragic events, she incurs the wrath of her powerful boss, forcing her to go on the run. Along the road, Charlie will meet a host of eccentric characters and use her gift to solve murder cases across America in a case-of-the-week format. 

Poker Face tv series

Part murder mystery, part crime procedural, Poker Face delivers a unique take that elevates it above other offerings in the genre. Right off the bat, the hyper-stylized, 1970s-style visual pops out in a big way. Like Rian’s Knives Out movies, there are kitschy elements in the production design and colour grading that made it feel like something from a bygone era despite its modern-day setting. The zippy editing and kinetic camerawork also keeps things moving excitingly. Something that I notice with Rian’s detective oeuvre: his style now bears a sort of resemblance to Wes Anderson’s symmetrical brand of filmmaking, further proving how influential the latter truly is to modern cinema. Long story short, it’s a visual feast.

Side notes: Being the expert visual storyteller that he is, Rian likes to casually put easter eggs on screen for viewers to discover on repeat viewings, so go ahead and rewatch the episodes for a more rewarding experience.

Poker Face tv series

The case-of-the-week format means that we get star-studded guest stars every episode. A rotation of long-time Rian Johnson regulars and household names pay a visit: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Hong Chau, John Ratzenberger, Ron Perlman, Adrien Brody, Nick Nolte, to name a few. The seasoned veterans definitely add an extra zinger for Natasha Lyonne’s Charlie to play off of. Her character is a female incarnation of every gruff, alcoholic investigator on TV since time immemorial (perfectly suiting that gravelly voice of hers) and she ably imbues the character with quirky charm. 

Poker Face tv series

If there’s anything controversial about writer-director Rian Johnson in his storied career, it’s definitely his habit of subverting genre conventions. The rug-pull moments landed him in hot water with Star Wars fans who disliked his mercurial approach to the lore in The Last Jedi, but it definitely works better for a genre as formulaic as murder mystery. His writing twists and turns and starts where things usually end (or vice versa), wringing audiences on a trippy ride. 

Poker Face tv series

At the end of the day, Poker Face is a delightful little series that sees the evolution of a filmmaker’s style pasted on episodic format. It’s an easy watch and one that crime drama aficionados should definitely try.

Note: Poker Face is only available in the UK on Sky Max at the time of writing.

Published on June 5th, 2023. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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