Director Sidney Lumet (Network, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead) brings Ira Levin’s hit play to the big screen, showcasing Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve as warring playwrights who resort to real murder to further their careers. Caine plays the mentor desperate for a comeback after suffering a series of duds. Reeve plays the idolizing student whose written a new play Caine thinks will hit it big — so big, he’s willing to murder Reeve and take the credit. There’s a lot more to Deathtrap, but to reveal any of it would spoil the fun. Just know that it’s a twisty-turny game of who’s deceiving who that aims to spin you around a few times before the credits roll.
Caine is reliably solid and Reeve matches him for the most part. Only supporting player Dyan Cannon, as Caine’s nervous wife, feels a bit out of her league. Lumet keeps the movie almost entirely confined to the interior of Caine’s home, rarely venturing outdoors or employing any overt cinematic techniques. Normally I question why a filmmaker would shoot a play without taking advantage of all cinema has to offer, but maybe close-ups and camera angles are all you need sometimes. The story and characters aren’t quite deep enough to leave a lasting impression, but the plot moves at nice pace and the two main stars make it a fun ride. As an exercise in surprise, Deathtrap entertains. With Irene Worth and Henry Jones.