The Critic. Photo courtesy of TIFF

The Critic starring Ian McKellen & Gemma Arterton – Movie Reviews Round-up

A new movie set in 1930’s West End Theatre-land? Starring Ian McKellen as a bitchy gay theatre critic? Okay, we are in!

Much-anticipated thriller The Critic has premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada, so here’s a reviews round-up of the new film.

Directed by Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie) and adapted by Patrick Marber (Dealer’s Choice, Notes on a Scandal) from Anthony Quinn’s novel “Curtain Call”, a starry cast includes Ian McKellen, alongside Gemma Arterton, Mark Strong, Ben Barnes, Alfred Enoch, Romola Garai, and Lesley Manville.

Set during the rise of fascism in pre-World War Two London, Gemma Arterton and Ian McKellen play adversaries who are forced to take desperate measures to save their careers, in this tale of ambition and deceit all set in the West End theatre world.

Ian McKellen is currently starring in new play Frank and Percy at The Other Palace theatre in London alongside Roger Allam, produced by Bill Kenwright, who also produced The Critic.

A UK or US release date for The Critic is yet to be announced – but we have everything crossed!

Further reviews to be added.

Book tickets to Players Kings starring Ian McKellen

Player Kings reviews


"Ian McKellen Underused In Potentially Juicy Tale That Lacks Urgency And Spice – Toronto Film Festival"

"The prospect of seeing the great Ian McKellen take on the role of one of London’s most august theater critics of the 1930s must have looked tantalizing on paper, but sadly this is a show that deserved to close out of town. Despite a colorful central character who could have knowledgeably and amusingly navigated a cruise through the dynamic theatrical scene close to a century ago, The Critic unaccountably shifts its focus away from McKellen’s Jimmy Erskin, who entertainingly dominates the film at the start, and onto a group of characters who are almost entirely uninteresting"

"The only scenes to offer even a scrap of fun and irreverence are to be found at the outset. It’s opening night and the show in question is a 17th century piece one hopes will have at least some of the dust knocked out of it. Before the lights go down, McKellen’s Erskin gets off a few juicy barbed jabs that would seem to promise much more to come along those lines. Unfortunately, this is a misleading teaser, as Erskin is mostly sidelined the rest of the way in order to allow several other far less interesting characters take center stage."

"... there’s a real infectious sense of debauched fun to the world that’s set up, tagging along with McKellen’s vile and self-important egotist drunkenly parading around the West End, handsome man and notebook in tow."

"The fizz of the first half might not go completely flat in the second but that’s only because of McKellen, who relishes another devious character to sink his teeth into, devouring every scene, a deliciously caustic turn that will provide him with nothing but the finest notices."

Todd McCarthy, Deadline
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The Guardian

"A devious Ian McKellen anchors uneven thriller"

"A delicious performance as a catty gay theatre critic in 1930s London almost saves this Patrick Marber-scripted drama"

"Anand Tucker’s hit-and-miss thriller"

"Jimmy Erskine is the most feared and famous theatre critic in 1930s London, saving his most savage takedowns for Nina Land (Gemma Arterton), an already unsure leading lady. He takes pleasure in ritually tearing her down, a practice that has further eroded her fragile sense of confidence. As a gay man forever at the mercy of laws that prohibit his very existence, Jimmy is living life on the edge, indulging in rough sex in the park with strangers while showboating his flamboyance in writing. But when his newspaper’s proprietor dies and his son (Mark Strong) takes over, Jimmy is told to be careful, to avoid falling foul of his new boss by cutting down on the cattiness and when his job security becomes even more precarious, he’s forced to turn to Nina for help."

Benjamin Lee, The Guardian
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More The Guardian reviews
Screen Daily

"Ian McKellan is a gloriously acerbic 1930s theatre critic in a film that proves too genteel for its central character"

"Cruelty comes in many forms in Anand Tucker’s tasteful new drama, which follows a 1930s theatre critic whose acidic reviews prove to be as noxious as his scheming. The Critic benefits from Ian McKellen’s amused performance as the title character, with Gemma Arterton equally fine as an insecure actress tired of his scathing notices. Their confrontation sends this adaptation of the Anthony Quinn novel into darker thematic terrain, examining the ways that both life and art can break people’s hearts. But the elegant tone undercuts the material’s inherent bite, ultimately defanging a picture that eventually shifts into a twisty thriller."

"Craig Armstrong’s mournful score and David Higgs’ moody cinematography lend The Critic a classy veneer, and the performances have a gracefulness that cannot be faulted. But the excessive elegance of Tucker’s direction sands off the story’s jagged edges."

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
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The Wrap

"Ian McKellen Makes a Nasty Reviewer Despicable and Entertaining"

"Anand Tucker’s period tale of an embittered critic flirts with melodrama, but gives its star a role to relish"

"... while McKellen’s Jimmy Erskine is a villain to remember, he isn’t a one-dimensional baddie. He’s a proudly gay man who can be arrested for who he is and who’d rather wear his bitchy wit as armor than cower or hide."

"It feels odd to drop these Nazi sympathizers into what has become a pulpy melodrama, but “The Critic” isn’t terribly worried about striking a consistent tone; director Tucker and screenwriter Patrick Marber (“Notes on a Scandal”) are having too much fun whipping up the froth and giving it a sleek, noirish sheen."

"But let’s face it, this is the Ian McKellen show and he makes Jimmy simultaneously despicable, understandable and wholly entertaining. When he gets ahold of this part, there’s nothing a critic can do but nod in approval."

Steve Pond, The Wrap
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Player Kings

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📷 Main photo: The Critic. Photo courtesy of TIFF

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