Match Point (15)<br/>Exiles (15)<br/>Just Friends (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Match Point (15)

Woody Allen attempts to revisit the Dostoyevskyan darkness of his last great picture, Crimes and Misdemeanours (1990), and comes a dreadful cropper. It was brave of him to venture outside his Manhattan comfort zone and set his new film in London, but he exhibits little understanding of - or even curiosity about - this unfamiliar environment. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays a tennis pro at an exclusive London club who insinuates himself with lightning speed into the affections of a toff (Matthew Goode) and goes from sharing the family box at Covent Garden to clinching a plum job to marrying the boss's daughter (Emily Mortimer) in about 15 minutes. But his social-climbing idyll threatens to unravel when he falls for a sultry American actress (Scarlett Johansson) with a similar eye for the main chance.

Allen gussies up this arriviste fantasy with a desultory debate on the nature of luck and aims for a Hitchcockian suspense. Alas, whatever tension it might have exacted is neutralised by the dialogue, which sounds as if it's been translated, atrociously, from another language. Rhys-Meyers and Johansson struggle for purchase on their unlikely characters. Allen's picture of London's smart set makes Richard Curtis's hoorays look like models of hard-edged realism, and his grasp of social texture is off the mark: how could an out-of-work actress afford a chichi flat in South Ken? There's a rumour being circulated that Match Point is a work of disturbing moral seriousness, but you'd have to be deranged, or American, to buy into its flimsy caricatures.

Exiles (15)

This rambling picaresque stars Roman Duris and Lubna Azabal as lovers who impulsively hit the road from Paris to Algiers, urged along by the African-inflected music of their birthplace.

The director, Tony Gatlif, revisiting the gypsy spirit of Gadjo Dilo (1998), reflects purposefully on displacement and exile, but allows his two actors more freedom than is perhaps wise: check the deeply embarrassing scene of "sensual" fruit-picking. Duris, in a role predating The Beat That My Heart Skipped, scores a bull's-eye for charisma, but we'll have to mark him down for the silly hat that he wears throughout.

Just Friends (12A)

The sequences of Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit lip-synching to Boyz II Men's "I Swear" made me chuckle. Unfortunately, they bookend a comedy of such staggering unfunniness that even that tiny deposit of goodwill goes up in smoke. Reynolds plays a high school fattie who returns 10 years later to his New Jersey home as a slimmed-down West Coast music exec and still can't win the heart of his dream girl (Amy Smart). Anna Faris has fun playing a demented pop bitch, but didn't help time pass more quickly.