Picks and Pans Review: Match Point

updated 01/30/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/30/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer

After several deeply disappointing recent movies, it seemed as if Woody Allen had nothing left to say. It turns out all he needed was a change of scenery. Relocating from his beloved Manhattan to London for his latest film, the writer-director returns to top form, serving up a sly portrait of an ambitious social climber. While Match Point may remind fans of Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) in its look at the darker impulses of human nature, its characters and story stand strongly on their own.

Point's conflicted protagonist is an ex-tennis pro (Rhys Meyers) on the brink of marrying well (to Mortimer) but who finds himself unable to resist the pouty charms of an American would-be actress (Johansson). Allen clues us in early on where this is headed, pointedly showing Rhys Meyers paging through Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, though Dreiser's An American Tragedy would have been equally apt. Rhys Meyers makes for an almost sympathetic snake, while sexy Johansson steams up the screen. (R)

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