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Alfie (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two


STEPPING into the shoes of Michael Caine's genre-defining womaniser, Alfie, must have been a daunting task, but Jude Law pulls it off with considerable aplomb in this lively contemporary update from director, Charles Shyer.

Set in a pre-Christmas New York, the modern Alfie Elkins is a good-looking, limo-driving, Gucci-wearing playboy with an eye only for the slender-figured woman.

Living life to the full, he cheekily professes to being interested only in three things - face, boobs and bum (FBB) - and never allows himself to hang around long enough for any woman to utter the word, 'commitment'.

What he doesn't realise, however, is that the ultimate player is about to get played, as a health scare and a sudden bout of conscience uncovers a chink in the Alfie armour, rendering him vulnerable to all sorts of unwanted emotions.

And therein lies the fun - seeing the smart-dressed, quick-talking and ever so cocky 'bastard' getting the inevitable comeuppace, while learning something about himself in the process.

As such, Alfie works like a charm, coming across as a breezy, sexy and surprisingly thought-provoking comedy, which benefits greatly from the charismatic charm of its central performer.

Indeed, such is Law's grasp of the character, it's difficult to imagine a more suitable actor to bring Alfie up-to-date. He oozes the sort of free-flowing charisma he displayed in The Talented Mr Ripley, while tapping into a more sensitive side once his world comes crashing down around him.

And he is ably supported by a wonderful cast of women, who pump up the sex appeal, while providing something for the women in the audience to glean satisfaction from as well.

For make no mistake, as chauvinistic and bloke-friendly as the movie starts out, there is plenty for both sexes to enjoy as Alfie's sexual shenanigans play out against the wonderful backdrop of the Big Apple.

For starters, there's Marisa Tomei's loveable single mother, who represents the real missed opportunity in Alfie's life, as well as Susan Sarandon's foxy older woman, a sort of souped-up Mrs Robinson, who gives the lie to Alfie's suggestion that 'women have a shorter shelf life than men'.

And if that's not enough, then there's Nia Long's foolish one-night stand, who just happens to be the ex-girlfriend of Alfie's best mate and prospective business partner (Omar Epps); Sienna Miller's high-maintenance party girl, and Jane Krakowski's married blonde bomb-shell, who has tired of her unappreciative husband.

All screw around with Alfie in more ways than one, leaving the cheeky British chappie with plenty on his plate.

The ensuing tale of bachelor life may well divide audiences, but it's credit to Law's excellent turn that Alfie, for me at least, always retains an element of sympathy.

Two of the best scenes in the movie find Alfie doing some serious soul-searching with an older man he befriends at a sexual health clinic, while there's no denying Law's ability to flirt with the women on-screen and in the audience.

Director, Shyer, also pays some neat visual references to the film's 60s roots, particularly in the way Alfie dresses and in the use of his smart Vespa.

But while I must confess to not having seen the Caine original in full, this slick remake has more than enough about it to appeal to contemporary audiences, without becoming too burdened by comparisons with the original.

It stands as a movie in its own right and confirms Law's status as one of the brightest British leading men of his generation.

Cast any pre-conceived notions about pointless remakes aside and you're sure to become seduced by all this movie has to offer.

It deserves to pull a massive audience.

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