SLEUTH (Sony 2007) D: Kenneth Branagh, w/ Michael Caine, Jude Law. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
Jude Law is no Michael Caine, and Caine is no Laurence Olivier, which means we lose the class warfare that added so much to the original 1972 Sleuth, in which Olivier played the wealthy, upper-class, games-addicted thriller writer who lures his wife’s cockney lover (Caine) to his country house.
Personal hatred works in place of class hatred, and Caine and Law have big fun getting in each other’s faces with elaborate lies and put-downs that escalate to crime and nasty revenge.
Kenneth Branagh directs to enhance the artificiality both of the action and Harold Pinter’s deadpan black-comedy dialogue. He makes the main country house a cold, uncomfortable Modernist nightmare, then shoots it from every bizarre camera angle he can find. We’re eight minutes in before the first close-up.
Branagh is fun and informative on the commentary he shares with Caine, but, sadly, the actor shuts him down fast whenever Branagh gets too nosy about Caine’s feelings and technique.
EXTRAS Branagh and Caine commentary, Law commentary, two making-of docs. Widescreen.