Scoop isn’t one of Woody Allen’s finest movies but it’s an entertaining diversion that moves along at a decent pace. The 2006 mystery is one of Allen’s ‘London movies’ and it stars his latter day muse Scarlett Johansson alongside Allen himself, Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane and Charles Dance.
Ian McShane is Joe Strombel, a journalist who gets the scoop of his life when he learns that the hugely successful Peter Lyman (Jackman) may be the ‘Tarot Card Killer’ that is stalking London. There’s just one tiny problem – Stromble is dead. He reaches out from beyond the grave to Sondra Pansky (Johansson), a journalism student to help crack the story. Pransky teams-up with Sid Waterman (Allen), a second tier magician, to solve the mystery and bring Lyman to justice.
A light and breezy comedy-mystery, Scoop doesn’t really hold many surprises in its lean 90 minute running time. The central murder investigation with the unlikely duo isn’t particularly intricate and it feels a touch too superficial. It’s as if Allen knocked-out a first draft and couldn’t be bothered to go back and add twists and turns to the rather straight-up narrative. It’s just not in the same league as Allen’s similarly themed 1993 film, Manhattan Murder Mystery or even his darker 2005 effort Match Point (also starring Scarlett Johansson). Scoop feels like an in-between movie for Allen, something that exercises the writing and directing muscles rather than truly challenging his skills. Having said that, you can’t criticise a man that writes and directs a movie every year.
Johansson does a pretty good impression of a young, female Woody Allen (right down to the trademark specs) and Hugh Jackman is suave, sophisticated and charming as the would-be killer. As for Allen, well he just plays himself, but you knew that already, didn’t you?
Scoop might be a minor Woody Allen effort, but it’s still a fun little move that entertains. It could have been much better but it’s high energy and strong cast give it some buoyancy. It’ll never rank alongside Allen’s masterworks but it’s a solid diversion if you’re looking for a comedy-mystery to pass an hour or two.