If ever an actor wanted to follow in the footsteps of another, Michael Caine is a great one to follow.  And Jude Law seems to be trying to do a good job of it.  A few years ago, Law starred in the remake of Alfie, a role that originally was Caine's.  And now, Law stars in the remake a Sleuth in another role that originated with Caine.  The difference here is that Caine co-stars with him in the new movie.  It's an interesting thing for Caine to do.  In another Law movie, Closer, Law took the role that co-star Clive Owen had on the stage, while Owen took a different role in the movie adaptation.  Law showed promise when he originally came onto the radar screen, but hasn't done anything exceptional to prove that he has what it takes to cut it.  Sleuth began as a play by Anthony Shaffer, and was adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter (The Trial, The Comfort of Strangers) and was directed by Kenneth Branagh (The Magic Flute, Five Children and It).  Between the adapter, director, and actors, there is a Nobel Prize winner, Academy Award winner, and Academy Award nominations.  In other words, there is a lot of heavy star power here.

Much of this is all for naught.  Like many movie adaptations of stage plays, Sleuth's origins are pretty apparent.  Branagh has done a good job of moving the action around so that the movie's setting doesn't look like everything took place on one stage.  The language, however, is a dead giveaway.  Sleuth comes from a different breed, and this is more than just having Pinter adapt it.  The whole point of the movie is the dialogue between Caine and Law's characters.  Both are articulate beyond belief, and their words are sharp knives meant to cut into the heart of the other.  It sounds very exciting, and it may come off that way much better on stage or on paper, but on a movie screen, unfortunately, things seem a bit dull.  Things move swimmingly for a bit, but the movie boils down to two people trying to play mind games with each other in such a way that would sound ridiculous if taken in any other context.

Caine (The Prestige, Children of Men) is Andrew Wyke, a best-selling crime novelist that lives in a spartan home full of electronic surveillance.  His wife left him for Milo Tindle (Jude Law, The Holiday, Breaking and Entering) and is seeking a divorce.  Tindle comes to visit Wyke as a peace offering, and to try to coax him to sign the divorce papers, but Wyke stands firm.  He immediately begins his verbal assault on Tindle, insulting him as often as possible (very humorously at times), sometimes as obliquely as possible, and trying to ensnare him in some elaborate game.  The strangest thing is, Tindle agrees to the point that he's breaking into Wyke's house under Wyke's direction.  The result is a bit pretentious.  Instead of drawing the audience in, Branagh manages to put them off.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 28 minutes, Rated R for strong language.

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