Some typically terse Harold Pinter dialogue aside, Kenneth Branagh’s reworking of Anthony Shaffer’s theatrical two-hander is an annoyingly clueless affair. Having played opposite Laurence Olivier in the original, Michael Caine now switches to playing arch tormentor Andrew Wyke, who invites his wife’s secret lover Milo Tindle (Jude Law) to his expensively outfitted country house to play a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
Law’s smug performance, in the role made famous by Caine in the Alfie remake, might seem like reason enough for a little mental torture, but Wyke’s motivations are kept obscure. Is he helping Tindle out by setting up an scam involving a botched burglary? Or is he revenging himself on the grounds of infidelity? After a faithful first act, Pinter and Branagh abandon Shaffer’s studied sense of game playing, missing out on the ingenuity of an old fashioned but still engaging conceit. Caine seems to be having fun, but there’s little to convince about Law’s signature ‘begging for forgiveness’ act, wearyingly overused in Closer, The Holiday, Breaking and Entering and various tabloid adventures.
Even Wyke’s country house, so amusingly booby-trapped with antique toys and ancient games in the original, has become a visually dull, minimalist set with little of the hoary charm of the 1972 version. Where setting Olivier against Caine seemed like the wily old guard taking on the charming young pretender, Caine versus Law just seems like yet another busted component of a fruitless billion dollar campaign to convince audiences that Law is actually some kind of a movie star.
General release from Fri 23 Nov.