A review of “Sleuth” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: R for language and violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

 

 

          Director Kenneth Branagh returns to the big screen with an artsy remake of the 1972 cat-and-mouse thriller based on Anthony Shaffer’s spare playlette.

          A thriller just shy of actual thrills. A sexy young hairdresser (Jude Law as Milo Tindle) appears at the fabulous digs of a successful novelist (Michael Caine as Andrew Wyke) to discuss the terms of a divorce. Seems pretty boy is shacking up with Wyke’s ex and she wants to get on with her life.

          Unbeknownst to Milo Wyke has an agenda, an intricate plan to thwart his wife’s desires and that of her current boy toy. The brass tacks are down and dirty as Wyke pitches Milo the concept of a tidy jewel heist of his own glittering stash and a cash-it-in insurance fraud. Resulting in a battle of wits, humiliation and potential tragedy.

          Branagh utilizes his best smoke-and-mirrors technique to establish some tension in the chilly, post-modern museum Wyke calls home.

The two Brits clearly enjoy their verbal sparring and arch repartee, particularly Caine who played the ardent middle-class lover (against Laurence Olivier’s Wyke) in the original.

          The juxtaposition of stark reality and stagy suspension of belief is an awkward fit, never quite locating a consistent flow. The claustrophobic theater is sharp and smart in Acts I and III, but the energy drops like a stone in Act II when the local constable gets in on the act.

          Ultimately it’s a semi-satisfying game, set and match for one of our lucky blokes. Revenge is a dish best served cold.