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Directed by Kenneth Branagh.
Written by Harold Pinter.  Based on the stage production by Anthony Shaffer.
Starring Michael Caine and Jude Law.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  10/23/07


While I have not seen the 1972 original film production of "Sleuth"--based on a play by Anthony Shaffer--I'm intrigued that Michael Caine appeared in both the original and the update, playing different roles in each film.

"Sleuth" is a two-man show, literally--the only actors in the film are Caine and Jude Law, who produced this remake.  The film follows the action at a visually stunning mansion in England where a famous crime novel writer, Andrew Wyke (Caine), has invited a struggling actor, Milo Tilman (Law), to have a drink and discuss a rather dicey situation: Milo is banging Andrew's wife, who left him for Milo some time ago.  Milo has come over because he desperately wants to marry the wife, Maggie; he needs Andrew to grant her a divorce.  Andrew wants to be rid of her but in just the right way, and he has just the idea to make both men's dreams come true.

Obviously, there's more to it than this, and the trailer hints at what else is to come by only showing you scenes from the first 20 minutes of the film.  This is good marketing, because if you don't know the background of the original film, I think what follows is fairly interesting psychological warfare between the two men.  My buddy Ross and I caught the freebie last night and both of us thought that the setup was excellent...but, both of us thought that the film comes off this high and does not deliver on its initial promise by the time everything is said and done.

I don't really know why this is; maybe it's that we never get to touch the actual feelings/thoughts of each man (and, you really can't talk about it without giving everything away), or maybe it's that there are some resolved issues by the time the movie ends.  But, the direction by Kenneth Branagh is tight, crisp, interesting; the performances by both Law and Caine (as well as the snippy or witty wordplay between the two men, depending on the situation) are excellent.  The house is the sort-of third wheel in "Sleuth" and it also does great work; the house is cool, an interesting visual, and a place that seems to get bigger as the film rolls along.

But something just didn't work for me with the film; I can recommend it as a great conversation piece, but as a work of art that replicates the impression made by the original?  Tough to say.  "Sleuth" ends up as an okay movie, but one that should be seen nevertheless.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09