Deathtrap [1982]

Man (Christopher Reeve) writes play. Older washed-up hack (the blissfully hammy Michael Caine) covets play. A meeting is arranged in a remote cabin festooned with various sharp objects. To reveal anything more would serve to ruin one of the most wondrously convoluted plots of the '80s and '90s. It's a cerebrum-bending romp from start to finish, with marvelously airtight plotting that simultaneously parodies and honors its genre, and two vibrant, continuously morphing lead performances (pity poor Dyan Cannon's weak-link wife, though, who gets stuck with the shrillest character and worst dialogue of the lot). Based on Ira Levin's long-running play, this adaptation's rhythm is thrown off a bit by director Sidney Lumet's somewhat misguided attempts to open it up for the screen, but the script and performers are so playfully adept that, as one of the characters says, "even a gifted director (which Lumet most certainly is, based on evidence such as Dog Day Afternoon and Network) couldn't hurt it." Delirious, nasty fun that's twistier than a corkscrew and loaded with enough red herrings to keep Flipper fed for a year. --Andrew Wright

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