Woody Allen, in the last couple of decades, has often seemed like a victim of his own success.
The prolific writer-director made such great movies in the 1970s and ‘80s, such as “Annie Hall” and “Hannah and Her Sisters,” that for many critics, the films that came after them seemed somehow disappointing.
With 2005’s “Match Point,” critics finally started using the m-word again. Some complained, however, that the plot centering on a murder and its aftermath bore too much similarity to Mr. Allen’s 1989 classic, “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
That same objection will be raised to “Cassandra’s Dream.” In fact, though the new film is also something of a rewrite of “Crime and Punishment,” it’s very different from both previous films. Mr. Allen, though, is likely to be a victim of his own success yet again.
“Cassandra’s Dream,” though a well-crafted, engaging film, isn’t nearly so good as “Match Point,” which might be one of the director’s five best films. Add the superficial plot similarities and London setting shared by the two films, and “Cassandra’s Dream” will have a hard time being judged on its own merits.
“Cassandra’s Dream” takes a while to get to the point, but I won’t: Ian (Ewan McGregor) and Terry (Colin Farrell) are two working-class brothers in London who are in dire need of cash. Terry, a mechanic whose fortunes rise and fall with his luck at the track and the poker table, owes big and fears his legs will be broken any day now. Ian wants out of his father’s restaurant business, particularly now that he’s fallen head over heels for a posh young actress who believes he’s a high-flying investor.
A visit from their Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson) may be fortuitous. Howard offers them a deal: Do away with his former (and very talkative) business partner, and he’ll make both men rich. Ian readily accepts this way out; Terry’s guilt threatens to destroy them all.
One of the great pleasures of the film is watching Mr. McGregor and Mr. Farrell play against type. Who else would have cast the former as the brash, confident one and the latter as the wimpy, teary one?
Phillip Glass’ score, the first he’s composed for the director, builds the drama’s tension until the perhaps predictable but no less moving last act in this film about the drive for self-preservation that sometimes leads to self-destruction.
TITLE: “Cassandra’s Dream”
RATING: PG-13 (thematic elements and some sexuality)
CREDITS: Written and directed by Woody Allen
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
WEB SITE: www.cassandrasdreammovie.com MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS
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