Image Credit: ‘The Critic,’ True Brit Entertainment

Over the course of his illustrious, decades-spanning career, Sir Ian McKellen has played his fair share of bad guys, from the supervillain Magneto to a Nazi war criminal to the literal embodiment of death.

But, in his latest role, the esteemed thespian just might be playing his most vile character yet: A critic!

We’re joking, of course, but it sure looks like McKellen is having his blast sinking his teeth into a catty, callous, and conniving lead role in filmmaker Anand Tucker’s The Critic, penned by Notes On A Scandal screenwriter Patrick Marber, so you know it’s gonna be juicy!

In 1930s London, Jimmy Erskine (McKellen) is one of the most revered and feared theater critics around, known for his flamboyant writing and career-ending pans in the newspaper The London Chronicle.

For whatever reason, Erskine seems to have it out for would-be starlet Nina Land (Quantum Of Solace‘s Gemma Arterton), reserving his harshest critiques for her. And his sexuality is a bit of an open secret around town, as he’s known for partying hard and is frequently spotted alongside his younger male lover Tom (How To Get Away With Murder‘s Alfred Enoch).

Image Credit: ‘The Critic,’ True Brit Entertainment

But when the Chronicle‘s owner passes, his ambitious son Viscount David Brooke (Kingsman‘s Mark Strong) takes over, with big ideas for softening the paper’s tone—which includes keeping a close eye on both Erskine’s inflammatory writing and how he chooses to spend his free time.

It’s not long before Brooke has had enough, relinquishing Erskine of his long-held role at the paper and all but throwing him to the wolves, a.k.a. the rising threat of fascism in pre-World War II England, quick to sniff out any signs of homosexuality.

With nothing to lose, Erskine hatches a plan, as gays are wont to do: Noting the married Brooke’s near-obsessive interest in actress Nina Land, the critic enlists her in a honeypot scheme and promises glowing reviews in return, hoping the plot will oust the new owner and return the writer to his former glory.

Of course, it only gets more complicated form there—and that’s exactly how we like it!

McKellen may be 85, but he appears to be as spry as ever in what he calls a “deliciously dark thriller.” And that’s especially reassuring to see since, last month, he fell off the stage during a London production of the play Player Kings.

Shortly after sharing the trailer for his new film on social media, the actor allayed concerns, posting the the injuries sustained to his wrist and neck are on the mend. And while he won’t be returning to Player Kings, he plans to get back to the stage as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we’ve got The Critic to look forward to, and hopefully many, many more roles to come on stage and screen for the legendary actor.

The Critic—also starring Phantom Thread‘s Lesley Manville, The Chronicles Of Narnia‘s Ben Barnes, Atonement‘s Romola Garai, and Starstruck‘s Nikesh Patel—first premiered last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival, and is due to finally hit theaters on September 13.

Check out the first official trailer for the film below:

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