Borg McEnroe film review: edge of your seat rivalry


Shia LaBeouf in Borg McEnroe.
Shia LaBeouf in Borg McEnroe.

AFTER a drought of tennis-themed films, Perth audiences are being treated to the second in a matter of months, with Borg McEnroe following on from Battle of the Sexes .

Both are about the build-up to a monumental game in the sport and how those games play out.

Back in 1980, four-time Wimbledon champion and gentlemanly Swede Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) is preparing for his fifth title shot, this time against American John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf), who is prone to angry outbursts on the court.

On the surface, the two seem to be polar opposites when it comes to personality, demeanour and their attitude towards the sport, and tennis fans and the media are lapping it up, making the match one of the must-sees of its era.

But behind the scenes, each man is suffering their own inner demons.

It is a fascinating set-up, with the anticipation of these polar opposites going head to head ramping up, but director Janus Metz plays up the heavy-handed elements of Ronnie Sandahl’s script.

Where Battle of the Sexes depicted a game that had deep cultural significance that can still be referenced today in the strive for female equality, Borg McEnroe is simply about the competiveness of two dudes, neither of whom are particularly relatable or likeable.

Wimbledon fanatics will likely already be familiar with the dynamics between the champions and the end result, while those that aren’t will likely be uninvolved in the melodramatic presentation of the rivalry.

Despite the lacklustre storytelling that has come before it, there is no denying the skill in which this climactic match is re-created, with the ability to keep even those unfazed by tennis on the edge of their seat and gasping for breath.

THE ESSENTIALS

Borg McEnroe (M)

Directed by: Janus Metz

Starring: Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LaBeouf

Three stars

Review by Julian Wright

Screening: UWA Somerville December 18 – 24, ECU Joondalup Pines December 26 – 31