Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sleuth (1972)

Two awesome actors, one lame story. Can the audience reach the end?

Genre: Mystery Thriller (UK)

Starring: Laurence Olivier (Hamlet; Rebecca), Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules; The Italian Job)

Directed By: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve; The Barefoot Contessa)

Overview: A wealthy, game-loving man invites his wife's lover over, offering him a proposition that soon turns into a series of dangerous games.

Acting: I mean Hamlet? Of course Laurence Olivier is going to be great, and we all know the wonder that is Michael Caine. I must therefore leave the blame with the director For as much as these two terrific actors are superb, joy to fear to rage was simply less than convincing from time to time, regardless of the Oscar nominations.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: This opens up with Michael Caine trying to find his way through a manicured maze garden while the host narrates into a tape recorder the solution to the baffling murder of such and such. From there we go through a few detailed rooms of the mansion, but most of the action takes place in the large den, a place filled with games, puzzles and clockwork toys. As the story unfolds, there is obvious great effort in making allegories and using the up-close shots of the oft-haunting clockwork, but had there been more dolls and mechanisms, more to zoom in on, this could have fulfilled a greater potential.
Rating: 8

Script: Can you ever tell this was originally a play? Hells yeah. And I don't mean in that nostalgic theater kind of way, I mean a constant and endless barrage of dialogue dialogue, British wit and more dialogue, on and on and on without any time to breath. No doubt there's veteran actors doing this, anyone else wouldn't have the lung capacity. Combine the sometimes too fast-paced delivery with accents and you'll have far too many misheard lines.
Rating: 6

Plot: This tale starts off with all the finest in British foppery, meaning lame, then a proposition: "Steal my jewels," says the rich man, "So my wife, your betrothed, may live like she's now accustomed to." Then one huge plot twist. Then Act II, the tables are turned. Then Act III, another plot twist and it seems that vengeance may well be served. The story is actually really cool, but it drags on and on and on.
Rating: 7

Mood: For as much as this tried to think outside the theater box, it was obviously once a play and could not quite shake those reins. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a film that was once theater, I mean William Shakespeare, Hell, come on, but if you remember House of Yes, you'll know what I mean by not translating well to film. Stuffy, foppish and just too long-winded, but perhaps not for a Brit... So if you're a stuffy foppish Brit, you'll love watching Sir Laurence prattle.
Rating: 7

"Oi, Bollocks! Gettun me some Bangers and Mash, are ye? He thinks 'is glazzies be vidin' me the dosh inee? Ye gulliver's denne thinks that these Insects and Ants won't be makin' anyone looks thither, do ye?"

Overall Rating: 72% (Search Me...)

Aftertaste: Another film whose title just does not do it justice. It's really not about an investigation, it's not about a detective mystery... whatever. A rose by any other name would still be a movie I turned off a couple times before getting through it all the way. Say what you will about horror flicks like Saw II, I watched the whole thing, in one sitting, and I loved it, unlike this.