Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Woody Allen, Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, Elizabeth Berkley, Helen Hunt
Director: Woody Allen
There’s something comfortingly familiar about the opening titles of a Woody Allen film: the jazz score, the white typeface against the black background, the cast listed in alphabetical order, even the familiar names of Executive Producers’ Rollins and Joffe. The viewer pretty much knows what to expect and in THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION a smattering of familiar ingredients are duly present: New York setting, a big band jazz soundtrack, a dishevelled wise-cracking male lead, an impressive ensemble cast, and a script packed with quickfire one-liners.
It’s 1940’s New York and Allen plays CW Briggs, the city’s (self-proclaimed) top insurance investigator who enjoys the admiration of his colleagues and fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man. However, he finds himself challenged on both fronts after his company appoints a new efficiency expert, Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt). She suggests that investigators are surplus to the firm’s requirements; and then a series of jewel thefts from the company’s clients not only leave Briggs short of answers, but the few clues that do exist appear to point to one man being responsible – Briggs himself. Could it be that the hypnotic powers of the Jade Scorpion have unduly influenced the actions of both Briggs and his workplace nemesis Fitzgerald?
THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION is a bright, enjoyable Allen comedy that pays homage to Hollywood’s classic film noir mysteries in both style and content: a sharp script featuring a hero on the run, nonplussed cops, streetwise informants, and sparky interplay with feisty female characters including a voluptuous femme fatale (Charlize Theron). The character of Briggs is cut from the same cloth as any Allen role from the past thirty years and thus he makes for an engaging, if unlikely, leading man. The supporting ensemble cast (many of them veterans of previous Allen films) all give good performances, buoyed up by some snappy dialogue and (by Allen’s standards) a relatively pacey plot.
If I were being hyper-critical then I would have to say that both the mystery and romance plot strands are brought to rather hurried conclusions and thus the film would benefit from an extra ten minutes fleshing out at the end. But that’s a minor quibble and longstanding Allen fans will be delighted that Woody is still capable of producing a straightforward ‘gags’ movie with no neurosis or relationship analysis.
A simple, fun film with fine performances and excellent production values.