Like Woody Allen's MATCH POINT (2005), CASSANDRA'S DREAM looks like a psychological thriller, in this case one in which two lower-class London brothers agree to commit murder for a rich uncle who is able to help both achieve their dreams. But the thrills are few and the expository dialogue tediously overwhelming in this preachy cautionary tale about getting too big for one's britches.
Ian Blaine (Ewan McGregor) has always dreamed of making a success of himself like his maternal uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), who rose from nothing to own a chain of cosmetic -surgery clinics that stretch from Hollywood to China. But somehow none of Ian's sharp investments have panned out, and he's stuck working at his dad's failing London restaurant. Ian's not-so-bright brother Terry (Colin Farrell), by contrast, is happy as a mechanic with a specialty in luxury autos and has just bought a modest house with his girlfriend, Kate (Sally Hawkins). His weakness is gambling with a side of drink: Terry's big win at the races allows the bothers to buy a secondhand sailboat they dub Cassandra's Dream after the winning greyhound that made its purchase possible, but there's always a debilitating loss right around the corner. Terry's troubles come to a head shortly after Ian falls for pseudo-posh actress Angela (Hayley Atwell), who thinks he's a hotshot businessman. So when Uncle Howard blows into town in need of a murderous favor, the brothers are in no position to say no, even though neither has a murderous bone in his body.
There's no obvious reason why Allen's film should be as slack as it is: McGregor, Farrell and Wilkinson are fine actors and the premise is as good as anything Alfred Hitchcock ever devised. Yet it's shallow and unconvincing from beginning to end, filled with painfully obvious dialogue and driven by Philip Glass' portentous score, which casts a dark aural shadow over even the sunniest scenes. By the time Angela and one of her fellow pretentious thespians begin blathering about Greek tragedy, it's blindingly obvious where the story is going… but that doesn't stop Allen from taking his sweet time getting there.
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