Directed by Woody Allen, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox and Penelope Wilton.
'Match Point' is the first Woody Allen film shot entirely outside New York and at first, faced with the English upper classes and cut-glass accents, viewers may wonder if they've wandered into the wrong film. After the disappointments of 'The Curse of the Jade Scorpion' and 'Anything Else', the fact that 'Match Point' is - initially - very watchable may also cause some confusion. But not for long. After a strong start, this drama about luck, ambition and guilt drops the ball too quickly, turning into a weak and unbelievable thriller.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Irish tennis pro and ambitious social climber Chris who, tired of the professional circuit, takes a job at an exclusive London club. There he meets and befriends the upper-crust Tom (Goode) and through him, meets and starts a romance with Tom's sister, Chloe (Mortimer). From that point it's a short trip to a job in the family firm, a big white wedding and a materially rewarding life as the son-in-law of wealthy but decent Alec (Cox) and cocktail gulping Eleanor (Wilton).
But there's just one bump in the otherwise smoothly running plan - Chris is also dangerously attracted to Tom's fiancée, a wannabe actress and femme fatale American called Nola (Johansson). Secrets and lies spiral out of control and, before long, Chris is in an untenable position with, as far as he can see, only one way out.
'Match Point' has gorgeous settings - people pop in to designer store Asprey for a jumper, go to auditions at the Royal Court, take in a show at the Royal Opera House, then head off to their country estate in Buckinghamshire for a spot of shooting. One does get the suspicion that Allen, having exhausted Manhattan, rather relished the chance to peer closely into the life of the English upper classes. 'Match Point' also stands apart from Allen's other films by having opera - rather than jazz - threaded throughout.
Rhys Meyers acquits himself honourably in the leading role but it is Scarlett Johansson's Nola that really stands out, even as the actors struggle with some clunkers of lines. The script has some interesting things to say about luck versus hard work (social climber Chris believes in luck while his idle, and wealthy, fiancée-to-be considers hard work more important) but ultimately it errs more on the side of glossy soap, going a bit melodramatically demented (with a nod to Agatha Christie) in the last third.
If you're a Woody Allen fan you'll like this. If you're not, then it won't be a particularly good place to start. Must try harder, Mr Allen - or else give up altogether.