Stylish and stagy, Kenneth Branagh's Sleuth has a cat-and-mouse feel to it, but this two-man show is willfully overdone.
Not drawn from the 1972 film in which Caine starred opposite Sir Laurence Olivier, but from Anthony Shaffer's play, the setting is Caine's opulent crime writer Andrew Wyke's distant mansion. He has as his guest Jude Law's unsuccessful actor Milo Tindle.
This somewhat smart, acrid translation by Harold Pinter has Tindle eyeing Wyke's wife, proposing that he divorce her so they can wed.
Wyke has plans of his own for Tindle to forge a robbery to have the kind of jewelry that keep them on a financial easy street. Wyke has his sights on the insurance return from such a deed. Tindle gets a little edgy and the scheme doesn't proceed as propogated by the cool and calculating Wyke.
It seems that Law likes playing old Caine roles as he did not too long ago in Alfie. Sleuth has that contemporary stylishness from the concrete, glass, and steel manored home of Wyke. Branagh works with his lenser to elucidate this battle of wits from varying shots - through glass, around items, as well as overhead.
Receiving one's just desserts appears to be on the menu here for these two chaps, hardly likeable while threatening or edgy. Law gets more emotive than one hopes as Caine plays it more low-key as Anthony Hopkins did in the similarly-themed recent Fracture.
Plenty of atmosphere comes from the atmospheric scoring of Patrick Doyle as the tide continually shifts between Milo and Andrew. The premise appears to be as interesting as the casting. But, this interpretation is too much of a murky struggle which allows for the story to dangle its arch vengeance in an absurd, teasing manner. And, the rendering of the fierce interchange and innuendo leads to an unhappily yet fairly easily foreshadowed conclusion. Sleuth isn't slicky sharp in a seething intriguing way in its new restructured form.