Scoop is the middle part of Woody Allen’s London trilogy. Many saw it as a ‘relax movie’ between the hard work on Match Point and Cassandra’s Dream, the two movies book-ending it. It’s not completely untrue. Scoop is about murder, but the plot is closer to Agatha Christie than to Dostoïevski, it’s fairly light-hearted, and Woody’s main source of inspiration, is Woody himself.
Ian McShane is Joe Strombel, a recently deceased star-reporter, who realizes - on the River Styx, on his way to Hades - that he might have missed the greatest scoop in his life: the revelation of the identity of the so-called Tarot Card killer, a notorious serial killer of prostitutes. A woman (also recently deceased) tells him the killer is actually Peter Lyman, a young British aristocrat. So Strombel jumps off the boat, into the river Styx, and swims back to the land of the living. He appears, in the middle of a magician’s act, to a young American student reporter, Sondra Pransky (played by Scarlett Johansson). She asks the magician (Woody) to help her with her investigations; he joins her reluctantly, but eventually starts thinking Lyman actually is the killer, while she falls head over heals in love with him.
Compared to the other two parts of the London trilogy, Scoop lacks an original angle. It’s an unpretentious, almost old-fashioned comedy, a sort of Woody lite. Greek mythology, a murder mystery, Woody playing a hypochondriac assistant to a female detective - he's done it all before, and probably better, but Scoop is still a well-written, well-made, enjoyable movie. Okay, Johansson is far too pretty and sophisticated to play the clumsy and timid student reporter (the kind of girl who stumbles over her own feet), but Woody always brings up the best in her, and she’s simply so adorable that we don’t mind. McShane (most people will know him as Al Swearingen from the Deadwood series) is ideally cast as the ghost who comes back from the other side (he makes the story device somehow believable). Jackson has not much to do, other than look handsome, rich and attentive, but he does so very well. It may be Woody lite, but it tastes like the real thing. And that final joke is 18 carat gold.