Challengers reviews: critics praise the film’s volley of humour, tennis and sexiness

Challengers is shaping up to be one of this year's best-reviewed movies and you can watch it on the big screen at Cineworld this April. Zendaya captivates in her role as Tashi, a manipulative former tennis player who is attempting to guide her husband, fallen tennis champion Art (Mike Faist), back into the big leagues. However, when Tashi and Art come face to face with the latter's courtside rival and Tashi's one-time boyfriend Patrick (Josh O'Connor), things suddenly become a lot more steamy and complicated.

The movie is directed by Call Me By Your Name helmer Luca Guadagnino but don't expect any of that movie's tear-jerking sensitivity. Instead, we're presented with an onslaught of witty, sexy mind games as our three central characters serve up surprises at every turn. With its impossibly good-looking ensemble (watch our interview with them here) and physically convincing tennis sequences, Challengers has more than enough to get film fans into a feverish sweat.

Critics have declared it's game, set and match as they fall under the film's spell. Here are a few responses that will incentivize you to watch Challengers this April.

Luca Guadagnino directs with his typical flair

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: "Challengers is terrifically absorbing and funny, with zinging extended dialogue rallies... Like life, it’s a brutal zero-sum game of winners and losers. Moment by moment, line by line and scene by scene, Challengers delivers sexiness and laughs, intrigue and resentment, and Guadagnino’s signature is there in the intensity, the closeups and the music stabs."

Linda Marric, HeyUGuys: "There is something truly wonderful about Guadagnino’s direction here. The Italian-born filmmaker delivers an intoxicating and gorgeously layered story about friendship, jealousy, and obsession in a film that keeps on surprising at every turn. Quite aside from being the best film about tennis to date, Challengers also features three truly incredible performances from its leads. This sexy, twisted tale is accompanied by a euphorically bouncy EDM score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that serves as a brilliant companion to some of the best-filmed tennis action you are ever likely to encounter outside of the ATP tour circuit."


Zendaya commands the camera

Clarisse Loughrey, The Independent: "Challengers is an extravagantly sexy take on Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, kitted up for the modern era. Here, the men don’t duel with swords, but with rackets. The object of their desire isn’t a gentle maiden, but a tennis superstar forced into early retirement by an injury, embittered by her fate and by the knowledge she could easily beat them both if given the chance.

"Challengers allows every slow-mo shot of Zendaya’s bouncing curls and her regal posture to further the argument that she could be the one to reverse the death of the movie star. But she grounds Tashi, too, when that hyper-confidence is allowed to falter for a moment, and something raw and ugly slips by."

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: "Zendaya is the linchpin. Her work here, on the heels of Dune: Part Two, cements her status as a born Movie Star. She moves with the decisive ferocity of a warrior on the court and the floating grace of a ballerina elsewhere. (The use of slo-mo is ravishing.)

"Holding closeups with the effortless command of an old-school screen siren, Zendaya registers every coolly assessing glance, every flicker of apprehension, every darkening moment of disappointment or anger while seldom surrendering Tashi’s composure, even in the rare moments when her control falters."

David Ehrlich, Indiewire: "Much has been made about how “Challengers” — which Zendaya also produced — finds the multi-talented 27-year-old mononym making the leap from teenage parts to more adult roles, but it also allows us to see every step of that transition unfold before our eyes as Tashi ages from being a child to having one of her own.

"Yes, Zendaya is equally convincing as a jejune and long-haired Jordan Baker in a radiant blue summer dress as she is as a grown-up business mogul serving her perfect lob from the stands (a pivot only matched by Faist’s physical transformation from giggly pipsqueak to an Andy Roddick type with Adam Driver-sized pectorals), but it’s the consistency she brings to this character that allows “Challengers” to hold together in spite of its erratic design."


It's already going down as the sexiest film of the year so far

David Ehrlich, Indiewire: "Here is a glistening, red-blooded, semi-American sports film where nobody wants to win at love because victory itself runs a distant second to the psychosexual ecstasy of having something worthwhile to play for, a reward that ultimately proves even more valuable than a USTA championship or Zendaya’s phone number.

"If orgasms are little deaths, then it’s fitting that nobody in Challengers ever has one on screen. These competitors only feel alive when they’re bound together by the mutual intimacy of being edged to the break points of their desire, and Guadagnino’s deliriously enjoyable movie doesn’t let any of its characters get off until even the most sophisticated Hawk-Eye line-calling technology on Earth would be unable to pinpoint the exact spot where tennis ends and sex begins."

Alex Godfrey, Empire: "Skin glimmers in Challengers. Tongues entwine, sweat drips. Dicks dangle. Spit is spat. In faces. Luca Guadagnino likes to get up close and personal. Of late he has blessed us with Call Me By Your Name’s juicy peach erotica, Bones And All’s ravenous finger-munching cannibalism and Suspiria’s, well, everything. But even by the director’s standards, Challengers is one tactile piece of work.

"Its cameras survey and worship the human body, its strength, its sexiness and its vulnerabilities, but it is supremely physical across the board, with bones crunched, tennis balls pounded and racquets smashed to smithereens. Most destructive of all, though, are the brutal bouts of fuckery spilling out of the bedroom and onto the court, broken relationships broken further across the net. The tennis is violent. The hatred is delicious. The film is a lot."

Kristy Puchko, Mashable: "Sensual longing radiates in every scene of Challengers, even though the love scenes are most shocking in how little sex they actually show. And yet, you will be scorched by the heat, as Guadagnino has put together one of the hottest love triangles cinema has ever seen... if not the very hottest.

"Challengers is not just a sexy love story or a suspenseful sports movie. Imbued with adrenaline in every frame, note, and beat, it is a breathtaking cinematic experience that thrusts you into the center of this love triangle, bounces you about like a ball that lives for the racket's smack, and leaves you breathless with a finale that is indulgent yet deeply satisfying."

Are those enough rave reviews for you? Then click the link below to book your tickets for Challengers. It opens at Cineworld on April 26th.