Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sleuth (2007)

Year 7, Day 256 - 9/13/15 - Movie #2,148

BEFORE: I picked this one up a few months ago from premium cable, and I was waiting for the 1972 Olivier/Caine version to make a double-feature on a DVD.  But that film didn't air, and then TCM did a tribute to Michael Caine in August, where they ran "Deathtrap", and the two films seemed similar enough to place them together.   The 1972 film "Sleuth" appears on the list of "1,001 Films to See Before You Die", but this remake doesn't.  

THE PLOT: An aging writer matches wits with the struggling actor who has stolen his wife's heart.

AFTER: Two men, an older writer and a young buck in a country house - with a love triangle on the line, so of course there are similarities to "Deathtrap".  Both stories are based on stage productions, so the action is largely set in one house, one room, that also helps to give them a similar feel.  

Since I haven't seen the original Olivier/Caine version, I can't be sure of the differences, but it appears that Harold Pinter changed quite a bit from the original Anthony Shaffer play.  To me it's interesting that Michael Caine was in both versions, playing the younger man in the 1972 film and the older one in the 2007 film.  Meanwhile, Jude Law stepped into Caine's old role, having also played another role he made famous in "Alfie", and director Kenneth Branagh just also happened to go on to play Laurence Olivier in "My Week With Marilyn" - what an odd set of coincidences.  

I'm not sure why it's called "Sleuth", though - we usually think of that word in connection with detectives, or solving a murder mystery, and there's really nothing to solve here, it's just two men trying to mess with each other's heads.  These are essentially elaborate pranks, not crimes.  Which makes things really awkward when the gay subtext starts to come to the front - is it part of the game these guys are playing, or is one (or both) of them really hot for the other?  The implication here is that any time there are two men involved with the same woman, that they really want to bang each other, and the woman is just a conduit - I'm not sure I agree with that.  

And if you follow that line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, then two men trying to kill each other are really trying to commit elaborate suicides, because what's hatred for another person, if not self-loathing turned outwards?   Then this can be seen as part of the homophobia, is each one trying to out the other, catch him in an elaborate gay trap, or does he then want to kill the other because the other now knows his own secret desires?  It's interesting that we never see the wife/girlfriend that they share here, I'm just saying.  And whether it's part of the game or not, it's a little telling that someone would even consider a romantic offer from someone who was just trying to kill him a couple of days before.  

From this and the previous two films, what's clear is that Hollywood screenwriters have no idea how insurance policies work.  It's really a contrivance that movie characters think that things can just be stolen (or "fake-stolen") and all someone has to do is file a claim, and they get a check.  There's a little thing called a deductible, and often screenplays just move forward and pretend that doesn't exist.  For a few million dollars worth of jewels, that deductible could be quite substantial.  Plus there would have to be a police report filed, there would be an investigation, and then a search for the missing jewels that would make them quite un-fenceable.  (This was also a major plothole in "Flawless", though I didn't want to talk about it for fear of spoilers.)  

Two weeks ago, I upgraded my phone, from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 6 - not the 6s, just the regular 6.  And I had it for only about a week before I dropped it and cracked the screen.  When I took it to what looked like a Verizon store to get it fixed, they told me my deductible was $199, but they could fix it for me for $150, so there was no reason to file a claim.  That sounded a little shady, but when they said I had to pay in cash, that's when they started to sound a LOT shady, so I took my business elsewhere.  A couple days later, after confirming that my deductible was in fact $199, I found a specialist shop that repaired the cracked screen for $135, saving me some money, but still providing an incentive to be more careful in the future.  (Why do they make those screens breakable in the first place?  Why can't they use a shatterproof material?)  

But my point is, an insurance deductible is there so the insurer doesn't go out of business.  And a guy who would let someone steal, let's say, a million dollars worth of jewels would still have to pay the insurance company when he files the claim, and that could be $100,000 or more, depending on how the policy is structured.  And in the case of this film, he'd still be without the jewels, and his wife - so he's so not making that deal.  He'd have to be an idiot to think he'd come out ahead on that, and it would take an idiot to believe that he'd follow through with that offer.  There are more NITPICK POINTS to be made regarding this plot, but that will do for now.

Also starring Jude Law (last seen in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"), with a cameo from Kenneth Branagh (last seen in "My Week With Marilyn").

RATING: 4 out of 10 motion detectors

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