"The man who said 'I'd rather be lucky than good' saw deeply into life. People are often afraid to realize how much of an impact luck plays. There are moments in a tennis match where the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, remains in mid-air. With a little luck, the ball goes over, and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you lose." – Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Match Point
Match Point pivots upon the concept of chance, placing it against the backdrop of faintly obscene wealth in modern London; writer/director Woody Allen deftly fashions this simmering, sexy thriller on foreign soil – perhaps unfettered from the shackles of his beloved New York City, Allen's latest film is his most compelling and vital since the late Eighties (1989's Crimes and Misdemeanors).
Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as Chris Wilton, a former tennis pro turned unwilling instructor and a wily social climber with designs on a life more lavish than his own. After securing a job at a posh London athletic club, Chris meets the gregarious Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), whose successful father, Alec (Brian Cox), runs a major British corporation and whose sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer) fancies Chris. Tom himself is engaged to the bewitching Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), a struggling American actress. Chris quickly insinuates himself into the lives of the Hewetts, while he feebly attempts to resist Nola's ferocious charms. Bonding over opera, fine food and a taste for sport, Chris and the Hewett family become locked in a web of deceit and high stakes, building to a climax as shocking as it is, perhaps, inevitable.
To give away any more would ruin Allen's tightly constructed twists, but suffice to say that the Woodmeister is at the top of his game (pun semi-intended) and his uniformly superb cast – Rhys Meyers, Mortimer and Johansson, in particular are exceptional – render this tale of steamy suspense and morally murky decisions in stark, viciously enjoyable shades of gray. Relying upon vintage Enrico Caruso arias to underscore the ever-deepening drama, Allen lets his slow-burn story inexorably tighten the screws on viewers, building to an almost unbearable denouement. Folding back neatly upon itself, peppered with scenes of unexpected violence and ending on a distinctly ambiguous note, Match Point is a thriller dry as vermouth and a welcome return to form for one of America's most essential filmmakers. The DVD
Sporting a very clean and sharp 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Match Point looks fantastic – befitting a recently released film, cinematographer Remi Adefarasin's spectacular shots of the English countryside and bustling London city life aren't marred by dirt or edge enhancement. A very solid image. The Audio:
In keeping with previous releases of Allen films on DVD, Match Point is saddled with a surprisingly full Dolby 1.0 mono soundtrack, one that accurately conveys the crisp dialogue and robust selection of Enrico Caruso performances. There's little to complain about, other than in certain sequences, one wishes for a little surround action. English subtitles are also onboard. The Extras:
Also in keeping with previous Allen DVDs, there's not a supplement to be found; the lone bonus feature is a trailer for Munich. Final Thoughts:
Match Point is a vicious return to form for writer/director Woody Allen, who marshals an impressive cast with a verve and flair that have been largely missing from much of his more recent work – it's a darkly entertaining thriller with a morally ambiguous finale that lingers. Despite a dearth of supplemental material and a paltry Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack, this is a must-see for Woody-philes. Highly recommended.