The wicked are overthrown by their evildoing,
but the righteous find a refuge in their integrity.
Mr. Allen returns to the England of his last work Match Point in this some-times funny tale that might remind you of his Manhattan Murder Mystery. He also brings with him the young star of Match Point, Scarlett Johansson, who this time plays journalism student Sondra Pransky. Although he again appears in front of the camera, he wisely refrains from attempting a September/April love relationship, taking instead a more paternalistic role, that of vaudevillian magician Sid Waterman, better known by his stage name of Splendini, (a role which might take you back to the early part of Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose, in which the magic act is far funnier).
Early in the film, ace London reporter Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) had died, and in the very funny scene in which he and other shades are being transported in Charon’s boat across the River Styx, he learns the identity of The Tarot Killer, the man whose M.O. is to kill a young, pretty woman and leave a tarot card by her body. When Sondra attends Splendini’s performance and volunteers to enter his disappearance box, somehow Strombel manages to appear in it and reveals the secret to her. Later she enlists the very reluctant aid of the magician, and together they investigate the Brit blue blood who has become enamored with her, Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman), the man whom Strombel claims is the killer. And so Sondra flits back and forth between the answers to “Is he, or isn’t he the guilty party?” as they roam through his vast country estate and his London digs where he keeps his large collection of valuable musical instruments in a vault.
This is not vintage Woody Allen, but is a funny enough diversion, especially commendable in that it eschews the fart jokes of so many summer releases. However, there are too many phrases that once were fresh but are now overworked and thus no longer as funny, such as “With all due respect…” and “you are a beautiful person…” Except for the River Styx scene, Allen has given up any metaphysical or spiritual explorations that made so many of his earlier films (Hannah and Her Sisters; Crimes and Misdemeanors; Broadway Danny Rose) so memorable.