If the last few years have taught us anything about the current state of Woody Allen's creative process, it's that he stopped caring about his actors a long time ago. Once meticulously cast ensembles comprised of otherwise neglected talents, Allen's actors have now largely become a means to an end: marquee-lit lightweights eager to exchange their names (and, presumably, the financial backing that goes along with them) for the chance to pad out their resumes with a Woody Allen picture. It doesn't really matter how shitty their performances are—as long as Woody gets to bankroll his new picture, everybody's happy. Well, not everybody.
With Cassandra's Dream, Woody's growing indifference is beginning to wear pretty thin: Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor (cha-ching!) star (rather dubiously) as brothers Terry and Ian, respectively—two dreamers stifled by their financial predicaments, and eager for a way out. When their beloved and wealthy uncle (Tom Wilkinson) finds himself in a bit of a legal jam, he approaches the boys with a mutually beneficial proposition: one that requires his nephews to do away with the witness who could potentially send him to jail.
Though with diminished returns, Allen's narrative mines much of the same Dostoevskian cynicism of his recently acclaimed Match Point. Also like Match Point, this lesser story more or less works, in spite of its deeply flawed surface: McGregor and Farrell, via much-maligned My Fair Lady-style cockney accents, play the two lower-class, rough and tumble Londoners as simpering Woody Allen New Yorkers—a distracting disparity that's nearly impossible to ignore throughout the film. (Strangely, there's nothing "English" about Cassandra's Dream—and no reason it couldn't have worked much better on Allen's more familiar soil). It's as if acting has become entirely inconsequential to Woody Allen's craft as a filmmaker—a necessary evil he's forced to endure in order to tell his story (a theory recently echoed in an interview with Colin Farrell, who suggested that he did as many takes for one scene of Miami Vice as he did for the whole of Cassandra's Dream).
At its best moments, Cassandra's Dream is as achingly tense and compelling as its older sister, Match Point. At its worst—particularly when it's testing Farrell and McGregor's chops—it can be pretty embarrassing.