Uber-rich mystery author Andrew Wyke (a wickedly fiendish Michael Caine) wrestles wits with out of work actor Milo Tindle (the devilishly handsome Jude Law) in an updated, whacked out version of the classic 1970’s film Sleuth.

Tindle has run off with Wyke’s wife and has come to the author’s abode to get him to agree to an annulment. A verbal war ensues leading to dramatic and surprising events.

Wyke hatches a malevolent plot. Instead of paying an exorbitant alimony, Wyke wants Tindle to steal the jewels from his safe. The famous author thinks it’s a win-win scenario.

Tindle and his wife Maggie can fence the million dollar jewels, and Wyke can collect the insurance on the pricey gems. Tindle is hesitantly persuaded to play the part of thief, but Wyke has an even more dastardly plan in the making.

The original film by Anthony Shaffer (Evil Under the Sun) is re-imagined by Harold Pinter (The French Lieutenant’s Woman) and veers wildly from the earlier flick. Caine switches roles. He played the younger man, Tindle, in the original and is now playing the older gentleman, Wyke.

Caine and Law do their best to chew the scenery, but Wyke Manor is an impressive set piece. It’s a Gregorian manse jammed with modern marvels, including the high-tech security system. The immoral author uses his home field advantage to the fullest as he manipulates the actor.

The plot is a twisted labyrinth, with characters bouncing from one outrageous plot point to the next. To put it in a spoiler-free lingo, it veers off from the original in a strange and unexpected manor.

Some of the plot twists are designed to trick the audience more than follow the character’s natural evolutions.

Kenneth Branagh directs with a Spy vs. Spy zeal, but Branagh and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, possibly the reincarnation of M.C. Escher, stupefy the audience with impossibly bizarre and dizzying camera angles as they attempt to infuse action into multiple scenes of the two men talking.

The acting, however, is impressive. Caine’s rage simmers below the surface at the handsome young man swaggering into his home. Law gives it back in spades. The two are equally skilled.

The film has all the elements of a smash hit, but misses the mark. Great acting, witty and clever dialogue and a twisted tale are the recipe for success, but the plot holes are expansive, and the characters make ridiculous choices to further the plot.

Grade: B-

Sleuth releases in theaters Oct. 12.