Sleuth DVD Review
By Prairie Miller
It's not often that an actor returns to a remake to play his own worst enemy. But such is the quirky reality of the even quirkier Sleuth. It's based on the popular Anthony Shaffer play that was adapted for the screen by Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1972 and is directed here by Kenneth Branagh and written by Harold Pinter,
Sleuth's two-character British shoutfest pits a now older Caine, playing Andrew Wyke, the wealthy cuckolded mystery novelist who squares off against his former character Milo Tindle (Jude Law), the brash younger man who has lured his trophy wife away from him. Tindle shows up at Wyke's luxurious, futuristically designed estate one day, to demand that the older man grant his wife a divorce, as it seems a mandatory waiting period of five years is otherwise legally necessary in that jurisdiction.
Wykes refuses, and appears more interested at the moment in toying with this bottom feeder actor or perhaps really a hairdresser. And whose lower class and partly foreign family origins he delights in expressing the utmost open contempt for. Tindle for his part is hardly a model of virtue or diplomatic etiquette himself either, mocking his older rival for being dumped by his wife, along with her rumors of his less than competent conjugal performance in bed.
As the two increasingly hiss and snarl at one another, the male sparring takes a deadly turn. Some time later, a police officer, who may or may not be bogus, pays a visit on behalf of Wyke's estranged spouse to interrogate the coy writer about Tindle's disappearance.
Not sure I got the point of all this mayhem if there is one, but it seems to be an assumption that the most dangerous insult to the male ego isn't connected to betrayal, jealousy or inadequacy around issues of sexual prowess, but rather taunts associated intimations of homosexuality. The cutting, occasionally smartly stylized dialogue-heavy stage format of Sleuth that dominates and defuses the drama at hand, is not the biggest problem here, though the stagnating, rarely relieved claustrophobic aggressive tensions don't help either.
With two such exceedingly unpleasant characters possessing no redeeming qualities whatsoever at each other's throats for the duration, the entire experience is a little like enduring raucous, endlessly battling next door neighbors. Sleuth is a rare film where violence is a welcome relief, concluding the madness that puts the audience out of its misery as the credits thankfully roll.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Features: Audio Commentary with Director Kenneth Branagh and Actor Michael Caine; Audio Commentary with Actor and Co-Producer Jude Law; Featurettes: A Game of Cat and Mouse: Behind the Scenes of Sleuth; Inspector Black: Make-up Secrets Revealed.
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