Film Review: “Sleuth” * * 1/2
Michael Caine, left, and Jude Law in “Sleuth.”
A great actor by any measure, Michael Caine has the unfortunate habit of sullying his classic performances by appearing as elder characters in inferior remakes. He did it seven years ago in the awful Sylvester Stallone version of his 1971 classic, “Get Carter,” and now he does it in director Kenneth Branagh and playwright Harold Pinter’s wan version of “Sleuth.”
In Joseph Mankiewicz’ 1972 original, Lawrence Olivier played Andrew Wyke, a posh novelist living in a gadget-filled manse and engaging in a wily battle of wills with Milo Tindle (Caine), a young hairdresser having an affair with his wife.
This new “Sleuth” should be a killer. Branagh’s remake is lean and mean — it’s about two-thirds the length of Mankiewicz’ original, and Pinter streamlined this one into a two-character, two-actor affair. But all parties involved lost the beat, and while there is nasty fun to be had watching Caine and Jude Law tackle this material, they barely seem to be taking it seriously.
In this one, Wyke lives in an icy techno-castle, surrounded by the latest in plasma screens and efficiency gadgets. When Tindle (Law) answers Wyke’s invitation to a meeting, the clever novelist offers a deal: He can keep his wife if Tindle will steal some jewels from a safe in the mansion. Then Wyke can cash a $1 million insurance claim, and everyone will be happy.
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