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'Cassandra's Dream'

WHEN Ingmar Bergman died, Woody Allen wrote, "At least if I can't rise to his quality maybe I can approach his quantity."

Unfortunately, that sentiment seems all too apparent in much of his recent output and especially so in "Cassandra's Dream," an uninspired if perfectly watchable drama starring Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell as working-class English brothers whose dissatisfaction with their lives leads to tragedy.

Perched uncomfortably between thriller and melodrama, it's a film that hints at possibilities that are left unfulfilled. It follows a fairly predictable plot that at times threatens to be energized by the introduction of a twist, only to return to a narrative path so straight that it signals its intentions scenes in advance.

McGregor plays Ian, a smart chap who longs to be a wheeler-dealer and feels constrained by helping run the family restaurant. Farrell is Terry, an auto mechanic with a steadfast girlfriend, Kate (Sally Hawkins), and a taste for gambling and drink. Flush with the false confidence of a winning streak, Terry scores at the dog races and he and Ian buy a small yacht, which they name after the victorious mutt, Cassandra's Dream.

While out for a drive in the country with another girl in a Jaguar borrowed from Terry's garage, Ian meets an ambitious actress, Angela (Hayley Atwell), whose dark beauty screams "danger, danger, danger." Head over heels in love, Ian puts on airs and he and Angela make plans to move to California, where he intends to invest in a pair of luxury hotels.

Meanwhile, Terry's luck heads south and he loses 90,000 pounds in an evening. In dire need of cash, the boys desperately turn to their successful Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), a plastic surgeon with clinics around the world. He's more than willing to help, but he's in a bind of his own, and his counteroffer to his nephews sets in motion a chain of moral discussions and choices that seal their fate.

"Cassandra" is similar in tone to Allen's much sharper "Match Point" but lacks that film's tight plotting and sense of irony. Even without that narrative virtuosity, "Cassandra" moves at a pleasant enough clip because of its strong cast and Allen's usually impeccable sense of pace.

If Allen's prolific, nearly annual output provides anything, it's the hope that he will find the inspiration to return to the form that made him one of the most formidable filmmakers of the 1970s and '80s. But then again, maybe, if he just took a little time off . . . ?

kevin.crust@latimes.com

"Cassandra's Dream." MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexual material and brief violence. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. In selected theaters.

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