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Review: Borg vs. McEnroe is game, set … almost a great movie

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Shia LaBeouf, left, and Sverrir Gudnason in Janus Metz's Borg vs McEnroe.

Julie Vrabelova/courtesy of NEON

rating

  • Borg vs. McEnroe
  • Directed by: Janus Metz
  • Written by: Ronnie Sandahl
  • Starring: Shia LaBeouf and Sverrir Gudnason
  • Classification: 14A; 107 minutes

In the days before personality-challenged types such as Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, tennis players were rock stars. They had character, style and mystique – and hair, lots and lots of hair.

With Borg vs McEnroe, an impressionistic, muted deep dive into the 1980 Wimbledon showdown, Danish director Janus Metz offers flashes of that bygone era. But mostly he’s interested in what made the coolly methodical Swedish tennis king Bjorn Borg and the bratty American upstart John McEnroe tick. The lopsided film pays more attention to the former (inhabited by dead-ringer Sverrir Gudnason) than the latter (played by Shia LaBeouf, who oddly avoids the Queens-bred McEnroe’s prominent accent).

The study of the icy (and fragile) Borg is fascinating, though. Among other peculiarities, he was obsessed with maintaining a low heart rate. Unfortunately, director Metz was compelled to follow Borg’s lead. The result is a stylish, watchable film, but one with a slow pulse. Game, set and almost a great movie.

Borg vs. McEnroe opens April 13 in Toronto and Vancouver

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