Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Smoking Guns: Cassandra's Dream

Woody Allen is a great director, and has been for over 30 years. He has made many great movies, including Annie Hall, Manhattan, Match Point, and Scoop (which may not have been great, but was extremely enjoyable). This movie is not a great film. It is not a good film. It is a decent film. And it seemed like Allen was rushing to keep his once-a-year movie status. This one is a murder mystery, just like his last few films, except you know who the murderers are, and you are given time to relate with them. Terry (Colin Farrell) is a former soccer star who is now working as a mechanic. He's a really, really nice guy, and he has a big conscience. He drinks, gambles, smokes, and pops pills, though, but he's nice. His mother, though, thinks he doesn't have a conscience. That might be because he gets in a heck of a lot of debt. But she's wrong. His budding businessman brother, Ian (Ewan McGregor), is a "nice guy". He's a nice guy if you don't count him cheating on his girlfriend with an "good" actress (Hayley Atwell), always showing up late for work at his father's restaurant, and damaging one of the cars from Terry's auto shop. Anyways, "bad" Terry gets 90,000 pounds in debt during a card game, and the two turn to Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), who is a prince who knows the ropes of the world. But Uncle Howie is a little on the shady side, and he wants the two brothers to take out a guy on his board (Philip Davis) because some testimony he's gonna make will potentially jail Howard. So the two contemplate how they will murder the businessman and Terry feels bad that he will have to play contact killer. So somehow our good friend Ian (who's pretty much a senseless killer at heart) talks Terry into the job, and the two pull it off on the side streets of London. Then, Terry falls into utter depression and his girlfriend Kate (Sally Hawkins) tries to help him, but he just feels like crap about it. Ian is happy, though, because the man he calls Uncle helps him out with a big business deal in LA and gives Ian's girlfriend (who is a terrible actress) a potential hookup with a director. I suggest you stop reading if you actually decide to waste enough time watching this movie and be "surprised." So officially: SPOILER ALERT! Ian must take out Terry. And in the most predictable scene in the movie, Ian is gonna poison Terry, has a "conscience" finally (he decides to fist fight with Terry, not poison him), and Terry accidentally kills Ian and takes his own life (the latter mentioned, not shown). Anyways, this plot is too predictable and is not up to the level of Allen's other films. Now, to acting and technicalities: this film proves that Farrell can be a much better actor than McGregor, though I thought I saw McGregor mouthing a couple of lines to Farrell. McGregor was probably cheating himself. Take, for example, the one scene between Wilkinson and McGregor when they are contemplating the murder of Ian's brother. McGregor seems to be staring at something, because his eyes look like they're reading and the same camera angle is used repeatedly. It may even be possible that Wilkinson's lines and McGregor's lines were shot separately. But I'm being picky. I guess it's not that bad. Now too the supporting acting: Atwell is okay, but Wilkinson is pretty good (not good enough, though). Who is the best? Sally Hawkins, as Terry's girl, but she gets not much screen time. Bottom line: Scoop was good, smart, and worthwhile. This movie is barely passible, not very smart, and not worth the price of admission or, really, the price of a rental. C

Note: Having read a story ("Nanny Dearest") in Woody Allen's new story collection Mere Anarchy, I had to wonder whether one influenced the other. If it was literature to cinema, then that's a double whammy for Allen.

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