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Film Review ***..: Woody Allen Aces ...Match Point...

Unusually Young, Sexy Flick Offers British Twist

By Kapil Amarnath

Match Point

Directed by Woody Allen

Written by Woody Allen

Starring Brian Cox, Matthew Goode, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Penelope Wilson

Rated R

Now playing

I wouldn’t want Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) to be my tennis coach. His forehand has poor form, all backswing and no follow-through. His grip doesn’t allow him to obtain the topspin required to become a great player. Fortunately, however, he’s just a fictional character in the movie “Match Point.” The latest from master writer/director Woody Allen is a model of cinematic form from the acting to the direction. It is one of the year’s best films.

The plot centers on Chris, a twentysomething who enjoys shopping at Ralph Lauren. He begins to coach pampered Brit Tom Hewitt (Matthew Goode), and the two hit it off after discovering their matching love for opera. Chris meets and marries Tom’s sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer). There’s only one problem: Chris really wants to nail Tom’s hot American fianc e, Nola (Scarlett Johansson). Once he does, he can’t resist her, and he risks everything to keep her.

“Match Point” deviates from the usual Allen offering. It boasts young, sexy stars and is set in upper-class London instead of his beloved New York City. Plus, Allen (or an Allen-like character) doesn’t appear. The biggest surprise is that it’s a thriller, with each scene building unbearable tension.

Still, Allen’s trademarks are evident. He uses an operatic score to bring out the guilt, betrayal, and irony at play. He handles the camera much as he did in earlier films, reveling in the confines of a partially opened doorway as he did in “Annie Hall.”

Formerly known as “that guy who played Elvis” and “that guy in ‘Bend It Like Beckham,’” Rhys Meyers has etched a name for himself with his strong performance, by exuding both cool and emotion. Johansson makes the most of her small role and will be the lead in “Scoop,” Allen’s second film in Britain, due out next year.

“Match Point” is yet another of Allen’s takes on the “moral neutrality” of the universe, simply moved across genre and the Atlantic Ocean. Just be careful if you see this: you may need to recolor your knuckles afterward.