The British media seem to go overboard in displaying their hostility toward fellow countryman Kenneth Branagh, whose “Dead Again” opened in London last weekend.
“Dead Again” became a hit movie in the United States, helped by delighted critics. There was no chance the pattern would be repeated in Britain; London’s Time Out magazine reported “hoots of derision” during a press screening at implausibilities in the film’s plot.
Then the verdicts came in. “It fails so spectacularly that it may well become the fetish of a camp cult,” wrote an Empire magazine reviewer. “Sloppily constructed and cut, riddled with cliches and cant,” opined Time Out’s critic.
Worse followed. The Independent’s Anthony Lane carped: “I was dying for a good shock, but I just felt dead, then dead again. And again.” The Observer’s Philip French described the film as a “slightly uncomfortable experience, like accompanying someone on a spending spree using Alfred Hitchcock’s credit cards.”
Geoff Brown of the Times complained: “Branagh attacks this nonsense with the same fondness for pastiche and overkill that dragged down ‘Henry V’ . . . the level of artifice soon becomes stifling.” Even the more charitable Derek Malcolm in the Guardian grumbled “Dead Again” was “too self-conscious by half and hasn’t the cinematic know-how to get away with it.”
Only Iain Johnstone of the Sunday Times sounded a minority note among the national critics. Branagh’s gift, he wrote, “is with the actors, not least himself--he becomes a plausible enough American to qualify for instant membership of the Brat Pack.”
Branagh, 30, saw this coming. Interviewed by Empire, he complained of a British “resentment that just occurs against someone who is relatively young and relatively successful.” He added sardonically: “If some people don’t like your films, what a tragedy, what a great personal tragedy! You won’t get rid of me that easily. I’m much too thick-skinned for that.”
British audiences clearly care little for critics’ opinions. “Dead Again” grossed 528,700 (around $900,000) in 176 theaters at the weekend. A spokesman for its distributors confirmed this made it the No. 1 film in London and the No. 2 film in Britain, second to “The Commitments,” which is on twice as many screens.