Fall 2017 is the season of the tennis biopics. In a few months, we're set to see Battle of the Sexes hit our screens. But, before that, we're going toe-to-toe with the true story of the Borg and McEnroe rivalry with Borg McEnroe.

As the title may suggest, Borg McEnroe recounts the heated Wimbledon final of 1980 between Swede Bjรถrn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and his bratty, arrogant challenger - New York player John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf). At the time, Borg had won the grand slam 4 years in a row and remained a firm world number 1 for some time, yet to be usurped, until the daring McEnroe decided to step up to the court and challenge this title in a heated match. Their heated, supposedly "controversial" rivalry lays the foundation for director Janus Metz's biopic... except for when it doesn't. For those going in expecting a psychological game-of-shadows between these two sportsmen at the top of their game, revolving around their iconic showdown on the courts of London, then I am sorry to disappoint but this isn't for you. And it's a shame.

Sure, this film culminates with a 20-minute sequence on the Wimbledon game between the pair and it's definitely entertaining to watch but, sadly, everything that comes before is dull and unnecessary. For starters, the title is misleading. Titled Borg McEnroe, most will go in expecting the heated cat-and-mouse between our eponymous men but we get none of it. Instead, we get backstory upon backstory - and whilst it's certainly necessary for building and developing character, it feels mostly irrelevant here. Also, the large majority of the film's runtime is focused on Borg and not McEnroe; the film's Spanish title, Borg, certainly feels more fitting in leaning down expectations a little. There is nothing to ever build on the Borg/McEnroe rivalry, nothing that ever really showcases why this story, in particular, was told - any tennis final between any players could have been chosen on the accord this film tells its story on. There is certainly rich history behind the Borg vs McEnroe match which the film touches upon - which would have made for much more fascinating viewing - but it never quite sinks its teeth into it and instead settles for more conventional, trivial biopic backstory that does nothing in this particular film's favour.

Despite this, though, the performances are certainly brilliant. LaBeouf feels perfectly cast as McEnroe, bringing the right anger and arrogance to the proceedings; he really embraces the role superbly - if there is a controversial figure out there that can convincingly convey that heated anguish towards the media, embracing McEnroe's controversial cloak, it is Shia LaBeouf. However, it is Sverrir Gudnason that really makes the impression here. Not only does he look scarily identical to Borg but he brings a stunning performance to the table - acting as a complete opposite to McEnroe; suppressing his resentment for a more cool, detached outlook and it's great to watch. It really is just a shame that the screenplay itself is too bland to give either character much nuance or depth for either performance to truly soar as it could have. As for the direction, it's fine. There is a competence to it but nothing about it that ever sticks out. And that's the thing about Borg McEnroe, it doesn't quite smash the ace the way it could have. It's conventional and, quite frankly, a bit dull.

VERDICT:
Borg McEnroe touches upon some interesting thematics and ideas but feels all too bland and conventional to shine: BORE McEnroe, anyone?


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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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