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Challengers first reviews: Critics hail Zendaya’s leading turn in Luca Guadagnino’s ‘electric’ sports drama | Hollywood


The first reviews of the much-delayed Challengers are in! The film, which was earlier bound for a Venice Film Festival premiere, but skipped it due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, finally premiered in Australia last week. If the first reviews are any indication, then expect fireworks from the three main leads – Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor, whose lives get embroiled in a battle of power and love, culminating into a tennis match. (Also read: Trailer of Zendaya’s much-anticipated romantic sports comedy ‘Challengers’ released)

Mike Faist, Zendaya and Josh O’Connor in a still from Challengers.

First reviews

Let us take a look at some of the first reviews by critics who attended the premiere. Trace Sauveur of Austin Chronicle wrote, “CHALLENGERS is some real electric character drama. Career-best performance from Zendaya and Faist & O’Connor are no slouches either. The pulsing Reznor/Ross electro score throbs over scenes of dialogue like they’re action sequences. Really alive-feeling movie.”

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Erik Anderson of AwardsWatch said, ‘Luca Guadagnino’s CHALLENGERS is incredibly hot. Zendaya is a capital S Star. Killer editing/pacing, an A+ synth score from Reznor and Ross. I’ll be thinking about sweat-drenched Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor moaning and grunting while slapping each other’s balls around forever.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Howat of Next Best Picture praised the editing and sound design in particular, and said, “Challengers is a sweaty, pulse-pounding, love triangle. Zendaya, O’Connor, and Faist are undeniable superstars utilized perfectly here. Intense score. Gripping sound work. The story volleys back and forth in time, but brilliant editing keeps the drama high. Really electric.”

Praise for the score

Another user also echoed the same praise for the score and wrote: “In Luca Guadagnino’s CHALLENGERS, winning isn’t half as fun as playing the game. Zendaya, Faist & O’Connor all deliver in a tense match of desire, competition, and control. You’ll come for the stars but leave talking about the score. In a nutshell — good game.”

A second user wrote: “Saw CHALLENGERS. I think a lot of people are gonna be very happy with it. The best use of Zendaya as an actor, utilizes her own celebrity status and the fact that she’s one of the most strikingly attractive people on the planet. Banger score too.”

“Challengers is a banger. Stellar performances from Zendaya, O’Connor, and Faist. Zendaya in her villain era is chef’s kiss. Brilliant camera work and that freaking score! Kuritzkes’ script lends to some great character exploration of what It means and takes to be a winner,” reviewed another.

About Challengers

The official plot synopsis of Challengers reads: “Tennis player turned coach Tashi (Zendaya) has taken her husband, Art (Mike Faist), and transformed him into a world-famous grand slam champion. To jolt him out of his recent losing streak, she makes him play a “Challenger” event — close to the lowest level of pro tournament — where he finds himself standing across the net from his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend (Josh O’Connor).” It is written by first time screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes, and directed by Luca Guadagnino, of Call Me By Your Name fame.

Zendaya was last seen in Dune: Part Two, which received critical as well as commercial success. Meanwhile Josh O’ Connor is most known for his work on The Crown Season 4, and Mike Faist for his supporting turn in West Side Story.

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