Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What's it all about, Alfie?

Is Jude Law the new Michael Caine? Is Noughties Manhattan a patch on Sixties London? Have sexual mores changed so little that a zip happy charm scout, who uses words like "panty peeler" and "yogabum," can dip his wick wherever he pleases? Whatever happened to feminism and political correctness?

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No mention of Aids, safe sex and condoms. Alfie smokes unabashed, like they used to in old movies. He rides a Vespa without a helmet and wears suits. He works as a freelance chauffeur, often for bored rich women who need maintenance in the back seat. He is, in many respects, a gigolo.

Why? Why now? Why ever?

Remaking such an iconic British film that represented the thrusting, confident authority of working-class alpha males, suddenly given the key to the kingdom at a time when social barriers were tumbling, with the rise and rise of pop stars, fashion photographers, kitchen sink dramatists and writers with accents, is a dodgy business unless the motive is more edifying than making a few bob on the back of a panties-down romp with 40-year-old Cockney form.

Bill Naughton's play was a smash hit in London, less angst ridden than Look Back In Anger, more overtly humourous and yet tapping a deeper vein - abortion, adultery, illegitimacy, pre-marital sex. When the film came out in 1966, directed by Lewis Gilbert, famous for morale boosting war pictures (The Sea Shall Not Have Them, Reach For The Sky, Carve Her Name With Pride), the politics was toned down and the inyaface monologues given the full blown, Gor Blimey, chauvinist treatment.

This fresh incarnation is wafer thin, with an undercover moral message, reinforcing the knicker throttling, killjoy homily about being responsible for who you do. In other words, if you sleep around, my son, you'll pay; wait and see.

The waiting and seeing depends on whether Law has the personality to pull off a straight-to-camera relationship, more intimate than yer common-or-garden narrative voiceover. The answer is yes. His Alfie is softer and gentler than Caine's, a nicer bloke who does give a damn when the chips are down - my God, he even cries! - although perfectly capable of dumping a girl on a whim and not losing sleep.

Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart provide a virile, rough-hewn soundtrack that gives the film an aural authority it barely deserves. Writer/director Charles Shyer plays camera games with split screens, slo-mo and stills that should be annoying in a Tony Scott kind of way, but isn't, because watching Alfie screw up is painlessly entertaining.

"I never wanted to hurt anybody," he says.

"But you do, Alfie."

Oops! Can't a boy have fun?

Tell him, girls!

Reviewed on: 23 Oct 2004
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Remake of Sixties film about womanising lad about town who gets his comeuppance.
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Read more Alfie reviews:

Stephen Carty ****

Director: Charles Shyer

Writer: Charles Shyer, Elaine Pope, based on the play/screenplay by Bill Naughton

Starring: Jude Law, Marisa Tomei, Susan Sarandon, Sienna Miller, Omar Epps, Nia Long, Jane Krakowski, Gedde Watanabe

Year: 2004

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK/US


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