Kenneth Branagh's ferociously arty, vacuous remake of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1972 movie pares the action down to a slim two-hander in which a famous English writer (Michael Caine) plays cat's paw with his wife's lover, a cocky arriviste played by that other Alfie, Jude Law. Handsomely appointed in gleaming glass and other fascist design accessories of the coldhearted superrich (the writer's house looks as though it were shot in David Geffen's mansion), this tiresome rehash seems motivated by little more than the urge to bludgeon us with uppercase Cinema. Surveillance cameras rule, and verbal tennis ensues in clipped micro-clauses made over by screenwriter Harold Pinter, whose gift for terse opacity has rarely translated well onto the big screen. Whatever pleasure can be wrung from Sleuth lies in the black comedy of Caine and Law's sinuous symbiosis. But the tired bromides about the potency of wealth and cunning, and the supposedly primal struggle of two males more in love with each other than with the woman they seek to possess, remain little more than a pissing contest energized by crude homophobia and misogyny.
Just get it over with and have sex already!
Opens at Meridian, Fri., Oct. 26. Rated R. 86 minutes.