Caine and Law in cat and mouse
10:08am Friday 23rd November 2007 in Reviews
There's a certain novelty value in seeing Michael Caine do Sleuth again, especially as this time, 35 years after Anthony Shaffer's play was first filmed, he takes the other leading role.
With a screenplay by Harold Pinter and Kenneth Branagh directing, the movie has plenty going for it. And then there's co-star and producer Jude Law, an actor often dismissed as a good-looking lad with limited acting talent. Here we have Law, who played Alfie in the 2004 remake, acting opposite the original 1966 Alfie, Caine.
So what's it all about, Alfie? The makers of the new Sleuth say proudly only one line of Shaffer's play remains in Pinter's sparse screenplay, which contrives to be an hour shorter than the first one. Shorter isn't necessarily better.
The plot is the same - novelist Andrew Wyke welcomes his wife's lover, Milo Tindle, into his country home, which has lots of fancy art and state-of-the-art security devices.
They play a game of cat and mouse in which the audience remains unsure who's doing the chasing and who's fleeing for his life. The big second act trick remains intact, but it won't be much of a surprise for those familiar with this thriller and it's less important here because Pinter's stagey minimalist dialogue is more concerned with putting nasty things in the mouths of both men.
Neither is remotely likable and therein lies the problem. There's no good guy to root for. You don't really care which one ends up dead (if indeed he really is dead).
I seemed to have liked the new Sleuth more than many of my critical colleagues. Caine is always good value and here rings the changes effectively as Wyke becomes increasingly devious in his scheme to humiliate, and perhaps destroy permanently, his love rival.
Law is fine as the unfortunate Milo, who thinks because he has youth and looks on his side he can walk all over Wyke, and, in the supporting cast, the actor playing DI Eddie Black, whose arrival puts a spanner in the works of Wyke's plan, is a law unto himself.