"I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but when I got older I converted to narcissism."
After the surprising success of Match Point, Woody Allen returned to the UK to make three more London set movies - Cassandra's Dream, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger and this one, Scoop. Unfortunately, though Scoop was made immediately after Match Point and reunites him with his then muse Scarlett Johansson, it is not a good movie.
As many Woody fans will know, Annie Hall was originally to have a murder mystery plot that he excised at the writing stage and subsequently rehashed and resurrected for Manhatten Murder Mystery sixteen years later to great success. Scoop feels like the leftovers of both that and - whisper it - The Curse of The Jade Scorpion, making it all really rather redundant and quite the miss-fire.
Johansson, whom Woody felt had a funny presence off screen during the shooting of Match Point, plays a klutzy would-be reporter staying with friends in London. It's essentially Woody in a dress and they try to deglamourise Johansson with a pair of round granny spectacles and braces. Though this is immediately thrown away with a stunning Baywatch worthy scene in which she is squeezed into a tiny red swimsuit.
It's actually hard to see why Allen felt the need to have a feminine version of his old comic persona given he's come along for the ride as an ageing vaudevillian illusionist - cast from the same mould as Broadway Danny Rose and reminding us how much better that movie is. Regardless of that miss-step, it's not a very well written part for Johansson, despite her giving a very good account of herself. There's actually a whiff of misogyny about how Allen writes her as such an easy-lay, which appears to be (other than the glasses) her major character trait; we're introduced to her when she tries to pull of an interview with a visiting arrogant Hollywood hotshot director (a mutton chopped Kevin McNally, between Pirates movies) who she immediately beds. Later, when given the eponymous scoop by a ghostly apparition of journalist Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) that Hugh Jackman's aristo is in fact a serial killer slaying the prostitutes of London, she subsequently jumps into bed with him and spends the rest of the film investigating Strombel's theory whilst falling in love with a man she knows may well be a modern day Jack the Ripper. As you do.
Like many Allen movies Scoop is a slight and playful 90 minutes, but you can't help get the feeling that the scissors have been out in the editing suite, hacking away without mercy. Familiar faces appear but have little or no lines (TOBY JONES!) and there just feels like there was a whole lot more shot with McShane's Strombel in the afterlife crossing the River Styx and evading Death to return time and time again to aid Johansson and Allen's amateurish investigation. Perhaps most fatally of all though, the film chooses to show nothing of the murders - they all happen off screen and are relayed only by characters discussing newspaper headlines - surely there was great potential in actually placing the mystery at the fore? You can't really get a sense of danger or a vested interest in what's going on when you refuse to show it - it'd be like Hitchcock making Frenzy without showing anything of the neck-tie murders.
Scoop fails to capitalise on the success of Match Point and spells an ominous portent for the flops that were to come from Woody's future projects in the UK. I know Cassandra's Dream gets a hard time but I think I'd actually place this on a level pegging with it, perhaps rating my enjoyment of this one even a little lower. Tin eared McGregor and Farrell's homicidal horrorshow may have been, but at least you could see it had potential, whereas this is just such a rehash of past ideas. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger was better than this. There are a few good lines that raise a smile - such as the one at the top of this review - and the beautiful Romola Garai appears as Johansson's London friend, but this is very disposable stuff.