This film is Crimes & Misdemeanors meets The Talented Mr Ripley.
At two hours I reckon it's Woody Allen's longest movie, and at times it feels that way. I've long resisted Match Point. Advance notices for Woody's London period were not good, and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger was total drek, but it's well known Match Point was a hit in USA and Allen rated it amongst his best, maybe even the best.
Failed pro tennis player turned instructor, Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) lucks out, as they say in the US, when his new tutee, Tom (Matthew Goode), takes a shine to him and invites him to the opera. He meets the family, starts a relationship with Tom's sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer), and is rapidly propelled into a swish lifestyle and a new career in the city. The problem is that sometimes like attracts like, and as full and sensuous as Chris' lips might be, they are equally matched by those of Tom's fiancée, Nola Rice (Scarlet Johansson). Nola's resistance is just the challenge a lucky lad like Chris is craving, and soon he's taking bigger and bigger risks to see her, and that's not even half the story.
I've recently concluded that the mistake some critics make, especially casual critics, when it comes to Woody Allen's movies, is that his is a cinematic world unto itself, as distinctive as Scorsese's mean streets or Lucas' galactic space wars, or Tarantinto's pulp fiction. One enters, as actor or spectator, the Woodyverse. Ergo, as a fan, I must be receptive to Woody's world overlapping with my turf, that is to say London and the UK. Contrary to some of the dissing, I found much of the dialogue persuasive, only rarely did it sound like american conversation translated into English drawing room knock-up (the tennis kind of knock-up). Rhys Meyers' Chris is impressively decorous in his manners, polite to a fault, although not a double fault (boom boom). He certainly is model handsome, and with Scarlet 'crippler' Johansson on hand as well the sheer pulchritude can feel overwhelming. The scenes of intimacy are, i think, a departure for Allen, and they walk the line between serious displays of passion and comedic pratfalling (e.g. the blindfold bit). Allen achieves genuine tragicomedy in the later acts when Chris puts his plan into action, and the effect amplifies the tension considerably. There's also something menacing about the use, not only of opera, but of vintage opera recital on the soundtrack.
Once again, as with Crimes..., Match Point puts us in a Dostoyevskian drama of moral turpitude. The problem is that Allen's pessimism is unleavened by an advocate of faith, and there is little in the way of Crimes..' dialoguing on the matter of conscience and criminality. Hence, this is more like The Talented Mr Ripley, less like the Russian master's classic antihero, the untalented Raskolnikov. But hey, as Allen often says, and the movie insists, so much in success comes down to luck.
All told, this was a very good film and a notable one in Allen's extensive oeuvre. And even if those intimate moments don't quite ignite the way one might wish them to, can't deny what Chris Rock said about it. MATCH POINT IS SEXY!
UPDATE (Xmas 2021): watching again, it is easier to understand why Allen is so proud of this movie. He succeeded in doing something outside of his wheelhouse (i.e. comedy). I particularly like the police-at-the-scene bit which has remarkable versimilitude. There are still one or two aspects of Match Point with which I take issue, but what is not in question is how good everyone is, right down to the smallest parts. Johansson's Nola is the angriest character Woody has created since the melee that was Deconstructing Harry. Impressive. Rhys Meyers' Chris is no Tom Ripley but his character invites a more ambivalent response in the viewer which is arguably more stimulating. Snarky criticism at the time of Match Point's release, that it's a tourist's eye view of London, is unwarranted. It's upscale London and so what? [9/10]