April 21, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Was ”Matchpoint” mediocre?

LABRECQUE: The meticulous craftsmanship missing from Woody Allen’s last five films is back in this sexy thriller, with his taut script building and accelerating to a pounding climax. Neuroses, schmeuroses! Allen’s reinvented himself.

WILLMAN: I understand how you’d mistake Match Point for a great picture. After Melinda and Melinda, the idea that Woody would ever again make a coherent movie is momentarily stunning. And maybe he deserves credit for finally realizing that his favorite themes — existential randomness, God’s non-existence, fate’s cruel capriciousness — are even more appropriate to film noir than romantic comedy. But this is essentially an inferior remake of the unfunny half of Crimes and Misdemeanors, dressed up in noir clothing. If only Allen had remembered that noir usually offers crackling fun along the road to doom.

LABRECQUE: You might have a more sincere appreciation for Match Point if you could separate it from the rest of his oeuvre. You see a substandard Crimes and Misdemeanors; I see a shining successor to The Last Seduction and The Talented Mr. Ripley. The suspense here lies not in the if but in the how: How will he get away with it? And what is the personal cost?

WILLMAN: Allen does cop from Ripley — and also A Place in the Sun. Speaking of which, any time a movie makes you say ”and, in the shrewish Shelley Winters role, Scarlett Johansson,” something is wrong. Deeply wrong.

LABRECQUE: Johansson may not be the swimmer Winters was, but her sultry turn boosted her credibility as a versatile blossoming talent. And Jonathan Rhys Meyers simmers with his character’s ruthless ambition. Best of all is the Hewett family, especially the parents — if that’s not how the extravagantly rich truly are, then I don’t care to know. I could’ve moved right in.

WILLMAN: Well, Scarlett does swim, almost: Woody nearly drowns her with rain in that horny soaked-blouse scene. But if the choice is between Johansson being whiny and wet in a crime story or Will Ferrell, or Kenneth Branagh, or Jason Biggs being whiny and Woodyesque in yet another tic-channeling failed comedy…I suppose I’ll thank cruel, capricious fate for small favors.

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mpaa
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runtime
124 minutes
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