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Heather's Movie Review: Sleuth (2007)

Updated on August 15, 2013
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Michael Caine and Jude Law. Talented actors sharing the screen together in a battle of wits and words on the 2007 Sleuth DVD.

Both actors have had a tendency to excel in the right film and fail miserably in the less than desirable ones. Caine has won Oscars in such film as Hannah and Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules. Law has been nominated in such films as The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain. Caine and Law also have a tendency to star in disappointing film remakes, especially Caine's participation in remakes from his past work such as Get Carter and the 1972 original Sleuth. Caine's latest attempt at remaking his own work exceeded on some levels and failed on others. Overall, the film was a valiant effort despite the multiple acting and script snags audiences had to endure. At least it was better than Get Carter.

The film's plot began a little like security video footage by following the action from afar until everything came to a head. The scene was set as young actor Milo Tindle (Law) arrived at the front door of wealthy crime novelist Andrew Wyke (Caine). Both men initially appeared to be fond of each other, except every word and action seemed to have an ulterior motive. Milo praised Wyke's house, which was designed by his never seen estranged wife Maggie, an interior decorator. Milo and Andrew engaged in a brief bout of small talk until the truth came to light about their connection: Maggie. Maggie left Andrew to take up with the unemployed Milo and he came to persuade Andrew to grant Maggie a divorce.

Unfortunately, Andrew was resistant to let Maggie go without a fight. All of a sudden, Andrew offered Milo an opportunity of a lifetime with no apparent strings. Should Milo trust Andrew or head for the hills? Throughout Sleuth, nothing was ever what it seemed. Both characters' personalities changed at the drop of a hat depending on which man had the upper hand. Deception was the key to winning the battle for both Milo and Andrew. Each man had the opportunity to expose their weaknesses when starring down the barrel of a loaded gun.

Caine's performance as the older man gave him the chance to sink his teeth in a role that focused on his maturity instead of youth he previously tackled in the original Sleuth where he played Milo. His eyes demonstrated Andrew's agony of being past his physical prime and how he used his mind to compensate for his shortcomings. Throughout the film, Caine struggled with getting the upper hand over Law's sleazy lothario. Despite the plot's numerous twists, Caine steered the plot back on point to Milo and Andrew's battle. Andrew's lifestyle seemed to ironically reflect Caine's own personal life with a much younger wife. He made the Andrew the crux of the film's rationale, which saved the film from being a complete waste of time.

Sadly, Law's portrayal of Caine's original role as Milo had little to offer the film. He had a tendency to reach for theatrical side of his characters by going to too many extremes. Jude Law has played a film cad way too many times and needs to find another character to immerse himself in before his 15 minutes of fame disappear completely. Law's Milo went from 0 to 600 within a short time span. His character's rants veered from the hysterical to the just plain ridiculous. He spent too much time spewing venomous words and playing with his dirty looking hair. He played with his hair so much that the impulse to take a set of hedge clippers to his head was strong throughout the course of the film. Law's performance simply ran out of steam by the end of the film and made the audience wonder what Maggie saw in Milo besides the apparently obvious.

The film's biggest disappointment was the script itself, which was written by playwright Harold Pinter. The story's pacing started off really slow and then veered into too many different directions. Regardless of the film's short length, the movie went on much longer than it should have. One throwaway scene where Caine offered Law another offbeat proposition was a head scratcher because it came out of nowhere. Andrew hated Milo with a passion one instant and then promised him the world on a string without blinking. What a crock. This scene caused a shift in attention as the film's end didn't seem to be nowhere in sight. When it arrived, a collective sigh of relief came not a moment too soon.

In the end, Kenneth Branagh's directorial attempt to revive this classic film had mixed results due to an unbalanced script and lead performances. If additional time was taken to fix those things, this Sleuth would've been perfect.

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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