Poker Face, review: Natasha Lyonne excels in this woozy love letter to the American underbelly
Having steamrollered Star Wars with the divisive The Last Jedi and friskily reinvented the whodunnit via his Knives Out movies, writer-director Rian Johnson has become one of popular entertainment’s pre-eminent mischief makers. With his first television project, Poker Face (Sky Max), he works his roguish magic on that most geriatric of genres: the Seventies “mystery of the week” thriller.
But while the creaky, crabby spirit of The Rockford Files, Kojak and, especially, Peter Falk’s Columbo infuse Poker Face, the 10-episode series is no awkward cover version. Starring the charismatically husky Natasha Lyonne as Charlie, a hard-drinking cocktail waitress with the semi-mystical ability to detect lies, it’s a larkishly enjoyable feat of cultural mixology.
Arriving in the UK nearly six months after its American debut as a boxset on Sky Max, the series executes the “killer of the week” formula to near-perfection. In each episode, Charlie blunders upon a new murder – and proceeds to unmask the culprit before the final credits.