Warner Bros. Pictures | Release Date: March 19, 1982
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6
CRLSep 2, 2011
Deathtrap does have one virtue to counterbalance its ridiculously convoluted plot... it's guaranteed that you won't figure out the ending until the final curtain drops.
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6
SpangleFeb 9, 2017
Deathtrap is not so much a whodunnit as it is a film about whodunnits. It is incredibly meta as playwright Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine) and student Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve) ramble on about the murder plots they are living in atDeathtrap is not so much a whodunnit as it is a film about whodunnits. It is incredibly meta as playwright Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine) and student Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve) ramble on about the murder plots they are living in at the time. Toying with turning it into a play called Deathtrap, but unfortunately revealing the truth behind the cover-up, the film is one that constantly defies expectations. It is loaded with twists and overacting, while also being dragged down by a bad ending with bad visuals. That said, Deathtrap is some easy fun throughout with Caine and Reeve having good chemistry together as the humor and mystery get terrifyingly meta. While not a great film, Deathtrap is enjoyable and one that is incredibly easy to enjoy.

After stumbling upon a tremendous script by a former student, Sidney Bruhl resolves to murder his former student. Concocting a plan with his wife Myra (Dyan Cannon), he invites poor Clifford over to execute the plan and steal his script. A complicated film from there on out, Deathtrap has a lot of moving parts, not unlike the rubiks cube in the poster. It is a complicated film at times with how fast the plot moves, but have no fear because the characters will invariably explain the plot to you in an attempt at meta humor. This meta humor rarely works as effectively as it should with the mystery being the main draw. How will it all end up? Who will end up victorious, even if they have blood on their hands? It is in the mystery that director Sidney Lumet's film finds success, as the film's mystery is compelling put together and really grips the viewer from the very beginning. The ending is a mystery and one that never tips its hand throughout the film, leaving the audience entirely in the dark as to what will occur. Plus, tongue-in-cheek references to how well past scenes worked for misleading the audience are somewhat funny and greatly appreciated.

However, Deathtrap's mystery is not perfect. The ending is pretty bad. The suspense and mystery lacks a great pay-off that is too nonsensical and comical to actually fit in tonally with the rest of the film. For such a well thought out plot, it sort of gives up at the end. Worse, the strobe lights are blinding. Set during a lightning storm, the power goes out leaving the characters to scramble around in the dark, only brightened by the lightning outside. This is overkill and left me fighting a headache and having to look away from the screen. It hurts and would probably cause a lot of issues for somebody with epilepsy. As such, this ending is not even visually appealing as it goes too overboard and gets so wrapped up in being meta, it forgets to actually tell a story beyond the story.

Deathtrap also suffers from the acting. Dyan Cannon is very bad in this film. She exclusively screams and screeches, making any scene without her pure bliss. She is horrific, but sadly, her co-stars are not great either. Michael Caine, typically a great actor, simply mishandles this one with an over-the-top performance. Christopher Reeve, not a great actor, rides his toned abs and torso to an average performance. Impressively, he does this all while looking like a male model from a men's winter fashion magazine. Unfortunately, he is the best this film has to offer in terms of acting, which may be an indicator as to one of Deathtrap's greatest weaknesses.

Ultimately, Deathtrap is a fun ride. It is enjoyably mysterious and meta at times, but it can become grating with the latter at times when it oversells that element. However, a bad ending and bad acting hold the film back and leave it as nothing more than enjoyable, yet forgettable, fun. Fortunately, it just so happens to be a lot of fun to experience and watch unfold.
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