The greatest living writer-director-star, Woody Allen has been written off more times than a Ford Escort in Moss Side. But given how prolific the whiny genius is, varying quality is perhaps inevitable.
However, his 30th full-length feature is so devoid of wit, vigour or interest that it’s hard not to wonder if the former Allan Konigsberg has finally lost his touch.
A 40s-set crime caper, it’s a tribute of sorts to classic film noir - "Double Indemnity" being the most obvious example, as it too is set in an insurance office. Allen is CW Briggs, an insurance investigator whose comfortable existence is overturned when Helen Hunt’s "efficiency expert" arrives. They loathe each other. He thinks she’s interfering, she wants him fired.
But when they go to a club with some colleagues, both are hypnotised on stage into believing they’re in love. The show audience kill themselves laughing (unlike the movie audience), but there are sinister forces at work. The magician (David Ogden Stiers) has programmed them both with a code word, so he can force them to commit jewel robberies - robberies they then have to investigate...
So, a daft plot, but with a one-liner-fuelled Allen script that shouldn’t be a problem. However, there are roughly three laughs to be had in "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion". Mostly you’re left admiring the pristine production design as the tiring story plays itself out.
The action shuffles along like its increasingly frail lead - with each slapstick encounter more embarrassing than the last and few of the one-liners betraying any trace of their creator’s legendary wit.
It’s certainly time for Allen to step behind the camera - he looks 66 going on 100 - but it’s not simply his miscasting that sinks "Curse". The script is the problem, and if the bespectacled auteur can’t see that, it’s time to quit the lot.