The Lodger relates a series of unusual murders attributed to Jack the Ripper, in 19th-century London, but the script lacks sparkle and is overcooked, full of stale characters.
Such a dodgy manoeuvre, this movie remake business. Of all the unknown and unused screenplays now collecting dust around the world, why would a filmmaker simply opt to put together a new version of a movie that was already made twice before? To this question there are few easy answers. The Lodger is indeed such a film - a remake of a story that adapted to film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1927 and by John Brahm in 1944. Based on a 1913 novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes, it relates a series of unusual murders attributed to Jack the Ripper, in 19th-century London. Ondaatje's version of the story seems to understand the remake as repetition, not reconsideration. Besides one turn of events when the viewer realises that Malcolm (Simon Baker), the most suspicious character in the story, is most probably nothing but a figment of another character's imagination, most of the other scenes fail to stand up to any kind of scrutiny. The script lacks sparkle and is overcooked, full of stale characters (roll out the shrewd serial killer about to commit his last murder; the foul-mouthed but seasoned chief detective; the precocious rookie sidekick; the placidly neurotic wife) and a plethora of predictable plot twists. By way of small compensation, The Lodger is sharply photographed, the production values well-balanced and the lighting crisp. On many levels, this director just needed a different story.