Near the beginning of Woody Allen’s latest, cash-poor siblings Ian (Ewan McGregor) and Terry (Colin Farrell) mark the maiden voyage of their recently acquired yacht – the ‘Cassandra’s Dream’ of the title – with a rousing rendition of ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’. By the time this glum tale of crime and punishment has reached its sorry end, you feel like giving Woody directions. Coming off the back of Match Point and Scoop (the latter still unreleased in the UK), Allen’s third British outing is a leaden, soggy affair that rings as false as its stars’ Cockney accents. It also features clunky dialogue delivered with such laughably po-faced sincerity you half suspect this is really a comedy in disguise.
Would that it were. Sadly, this is Allen in serious mode – a Crimes And Misdemeanors for the noughties, complete with self-conscious nods to Dostoyevsky and Greek tragedy and an overwrought Philip Glass score. As before, the plot involves a murder that leaves the murderer wracked with guilt. This time though, said crime feels ludicrously unmotivated – a quid pro quo killing that social climber McGregor and luckless gambler Farrell undertake for their rich uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson) after he helps them out of a financial jam. Moderate tension is generated by the boys’ stalking of their quarry (Phil Davis) across a west London whose chilly greys are effectively captured. Given their inability to pull the trigger though, Wilkinson would’ve been better off hiring the Chuckle brothers…
Woody’s female leads fare better, Hayley Atwell bringing a cool eroticism to her role as McGregor’s actress girlfriend and Sally Hawkins (so good in Happy-Go-Lucky) conveying some convincing concern as Farrell’s doting partner. But her cracking performance is the only thing you’ll swallow in an ill-conceived caprice that is part moral fable, part urban thriller and all laboured failure.
An alarmingly weak effort from a once-great director whose determination to retain his autonomy has isolated him from every dissenting voice. The likes of Annie Hall and Manhattan hell, even Mighty Aphrodite - have never seemed so far away.