Mediocre Woody Allen is still much better than most, so it's a mystery why this slight-but-enjoyable comedy has taken two years to receive a UK release.
A '40s-set, prattle-of-the-sexes rom-com that tips its fedora to Double Indemnity and His Girl Friday, Jade Scorpion stars Allen as CW Briggs, top investigator at a New York insurance firm. Helen Hunt's brusque `efficiency expert', newly hired by big boss Dan Aykroyd, is the thorn in his side.
So far, so much repartee. Then the duo are hypnotised to fall in love by stage performer Voltan (Allen regular David Ogden Stiers). Thing is, the sneaky old mesmerist never deprograms them, later sending them back under and having them steal stashes of priceless jewels...
Faultlessly designed, costumed and shot to rustle up '40s New York, Woody's 31st film is at its best when he and Hunt are trading put-downs. "I wouldn't kiss you if we were marooned on a desert island for 20 years," she says. "We'd never be marooned for 20 years," fizzes the reply. "I'd make a bow and arrow and kill you."
Less successful is Allen's determination to turn Charlize Theron's seductress Laura Kensington into an extended visual gag ("Tonight, Matthew, I'm Lauren Bacall!"). Or the painfully unfunny hypno-heist scenes. Or Woody's attempts to stir up some sexual chemistry, poor old Helen Hunt being caught between the ageing quipster and the widening Aykroyd.
A long way from being vintage Woody, then, but there's just enough merriment to make it worth popping the cork.