Written and directed by Woody Allen, The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion is an old-fashioned comedy thriller about an insurance investigator who is hypnotized into stealing priceless jewels and then unknowingly investigates his own thefts.
Released in 2001, the crime comedy was originally a flop with the 1940's setting making it the most expensive of Allen's films at that point. Since then, however, the film has gained some cult recognition from fans of the director's work. This really feels like a project which would have made more sense had it been released around the same time as Broadway Danny Rose and Shadows And Fog with its dated look and sense of humour because it's not exactly the kind of genre that was in vogue back in 2001. The plot is based on a clever premise with a lot of potential: two people who hate each other are revealed to, in fact, be in love deep down but are then manipulated into committing crimes by a creepy hypnotist. Reminiscent of The Purple Rose Of Cairo in that it's a rather "magical" premise set in the early 20th century, The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion may not have come out at the right time but it sure sounded like a great idea.
For the most part, the film really does work with Allen and Helen Hunt selling their characters' love/hate relationship really well and the gimmicky premise providing a lot of clever misunderstandings as the clueless investigator confidently gathers evidence against himself, slowly but surely leading himself down a destructive path. Unfortunately, the story doesn't develop as much as it could and the ending is rushed and unsatisfying: the bad guy is disposed off far too easily and the whole hypnotism thing is so inconsistent it ends up feeling completely unconvincing. Similarly to Hollywood Ending, Allen wasn't originally going to cast himself in the lead role and he would be the first to admit that not hiring someone younger was a mistake as it would have made the scenes with him and Charlize Theron's intimidating femme fatale far less distracting.
While nowhere near one of the director's best, The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion is still an entertaining watch thanks to a witty script, fun performances and a nifty premise. Had the plot been a bit more focused, this could have been a gem but, as it stands, it's amusing at best.
Uneven, if harmless.