John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot Looks Really Boring

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: SquareSpace)

When it was first announced that John Malkovich would be playing famous fictional detective Hercule Poirot, I was thrilled.

Amazon’s “The ABC Murders” seemed like a perfect opportunity for something different. Malkovich, I hoped, would give us a performance that would be more than just another tortured, twisted detective.

Based on the first image of Malkovich in the role, I’m somewhat disappointed. Here’s a version of Poirot that screams “Sherlock”.

John Malkovich as Poirot
Source: Amazon/BBC

Amazon can’t possibly hope to make a big splash in the crime drama world with this version of Poirot. Steeped in shadows, missing his trademark handlebar moustache, and sporting an expression that suggests his childhood dog just died, Malkovich’s Poirot doesn’t look like he’d be any fun at a party.

This, despite the fact that the whole point of Poirot is that he’s meant to be fun. He’s a bit bumbling and awkward, but he’s so adorable that people are constantly inviting him to dinner parties.

It’s not his fault someone usually gets murdered soon after.

The big problem with any modern television interpretation of Poirot is that it’ll inevitably be measured up against the Kenneth Branagh movie from last year. “Murder on the Orient Express” is also a grim and gritty reimagining of the acclaimed detective, but its production value and superb lighting and color grading at least makes it very pretty to look at.

I just can’t imagine a shadowy version of the story will carry the same appeal. John Malkovich runs the risk of being seen as the Poor Man’s Kenneth Branagh, and nobody wants that.

Here We Go Again

I’m exceptionally tired of gritty detective stories by this point. Even in the colorful “Murder of the Orient Express”, Poirot is portrayed as a man who is consumed with mental illness; so trapped in an OCD nightmare that he can’t help but spot anomalous clues in the world around him.

Essentially, he’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, but slightly more amiable, and with a moustache.

Murder on the Orient Express Kenneth Branagh
Source: 20th Century Fox

Whatever happened to the version of Poirot who is simply an incredible detective, without needing some emotionally crippling excuse for his abilities? Quite aside from anything, this conveys some very strange ideas of what the writers think having a mental illness is actually like.

I hope this initial image of “The ABC Murders” doesn’t prove to be indicative of the show as a whole. I’d really love it if a modern Agatha Christie adaptation were allowed to be a little more jovial.

I understand the need for drama when dealing with murders.

I’m just so tired of “Sherlock” clones.