In contemporary Liverpool, an elderly man passes silently away. While trawling through his possessions, his granddaughter discovers a clutch of yellowing letters, newspaper cuttings and a handful of earth wrapped in a blood-red handkerchief: a life history hidden within a dusty box.

This is the opening to Land And Freedom, directed by cinematic stalwart of the Left, Ken Loach. The film transports us by flashback to 305 England, where David (Ian llart), a young unemployed Scouser, leaves for Spain to fight Franco’s fascists in the Civil War, armed only with a handful of ideals. lie falls in with the POUM, a militia group united by revolutionary idealism and, while lighting at the Front, he tastes action and death, yet finds comradeship and love in the form of Blanca (Rosana Pastor), a beautiful Spanish revolutionary.

With gritty, expressive dialogue, Loach exposes divisions within the ranks: political confrontations which

turn socialist against socialist, betraying revolutionary ideals and threatening the cause from within. However, he is careful not to allow the film to slip into one-sided political serrnonising, and provides enough action to maintain the pace. Even the film’s most daring scene - a pivotal, lengthy debate between Spanish peasants over the nature of collectivised land - is dramatised so as to educate the audience without preaching. The outstanding cast of relative unknowns give unselfish

Land And Freedom: ‘abraslve realism' l performances which intensify the I film’s abrasive realism, enhanced by Loach’s refusal to succumb to ? Hollywood sentimentality. This is a movie about real life and real people, where death is frightening and flesh isn’t bulletproof. A very powerful and inspiring piece of cinema. (Lawrence 1 Atkinson) i land And Freedom (15) (Ken teach, UK/Spain, 1995) Ian llart, Rosana Pastor, Iciar Ballain. 109 mins. From Fri 13: Glasgow Film Theatre. From Fri f 20: Edinburgh Cameo.

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Assassins: ‘dellvers exactly what it promises’


Hollywood’s relentless plundering of those readily accessible pop culture icons continues unabated with this serviceable but totally predictable action pic. Christopher Lambert plays Rayrlen, a bizarrely accented God, in a perfunctory story that involves the recruitment of Earth’s finest warriors to do battle with those from other worlds selected by Rayden’s nemesis for the ultimate prize - the freedom of mankind. All of which might make it sound just a bit like Gladiators, which is a pretty apt comparison, as some of the alien warriors boast the same unfeasible physical attributes and lumbering inarticulateness.

Perhaps both that show and this film will appeal to the same audience, although the gruesome nature of the screen violence - a fair reflection of the video game that inspired it - may prevent those who will enjoy it the most from actually seeing it In the cinema. Yet unlike rival production


Seeing so many familiar elements in place Sylvester Stallone's reflective hit man, Antonio Banderas‘s violent young pretender. Julianne Moore‘s vulnerable heroine you might not be expecting too much from Assassins. But with Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner and Die Hard producer Joel Silver behind it. all those little cliches are given a neat twist while the wafer-thin story never pretends to be anything other than a vehicle for some explosive action.

Robert Rath (Stallone) is the best professional killer money can buy. he communicates with his employers via computer modem and carries out his work with ruthless efficiency. But when he notices that a cocky and equally deadly rival, Miguel Bain (Banderas) is starting to ‘steal' some of hisjobs from under his nose. he determines to get to the bottom of the mystery. lt prompts a

Streetlighter, Mortal Kombat at least has a sense of humour about itself, and with Lambert only contributing an extended cameo, the remaining cast members can slip into their one- dimensional characters and make them work satisfactorily enough. Most importantly, the action is pacy and inventive, while the traditional struggle between the forces of Good and Evil gives the film a morality which is underlined by the idea that each of the three leading Earth warriors - a convenient demographic of WASP, woman and Asian-American - must first conquer their own demons before facing the demonic forces ranked before them. Of course, that has been a staple of action movies from the silent days onwards and it works well enough here in spite of dramatic limitation, but the idea was much better used in The Last Dragon. A film of similar appeal, it had a certain unknowning innocence that contrasts starkly with the merchandise-led production that Mortal Kombat is undoubtedly intended to be. (Anwar Brett)

long. breathless and bloody chase between the two men. complicated by Rath's involvement with an intended tat'get.'lii-teclr information thief Electra ; (Moore). Showing the sarrrc black sense of | humour and expert handling of l explosive set pieces that have ; characterised l)onrrer‘s more successful: efforts of recent years, the film is betteri than. say. Michael Winner's 'I’lte th’t‘lltl/llt' in the way it portrays the rivalry arid sneaking admiration between Rath and Bain. Banderas is rapidly establishing hirrrself as a subtly gifted actor equally at home in romance or drama. period or action -- which arguany makes him a bigger threat to top-liner Stallone than Bain is to Rath. It might all be quickly forgotten after the dust has settled and the credits have rolled. but Assassins delivers exactly what it promises. (Anwar Brett) Assassins (l5) (th‘lltll'tl Dunner: US.

l 995) Sylvester Slit/lone. Antonio Bani/eras. Julianne Moore. l’mnt Fri 6. General release.

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Mortal Kombat: ‘gruesome screen vlolence’

Mortal liombat (15) (Paul Anderson,

US, 1995) Christopher lambart, Robin Shoo, Linden Ashby. 101 mins. From I Fri 13. General release: I



The Net: ‘candy store thrills of the Internet'

After success with an action flick and a romantic comedy. wunderkind actress Sandra Bullock tries her hand at carrying a conspiracy thriller ~ and fails. lionourably. l‘or while Speed and While You Were Sleeping showed her abilities irr well-written. strongly- plotted two-harrders. irr lnvin \Vitrkler's workaday film. she is on her own.

Bullock's Angela is a lonesome. borne-based software programmer. just a name on a screen to most of her colleagues. But when she accidently gets sent a disk containing a progratrrme that cart infiltrate any computer system without being traced. this lack of physical presence becorrres a real problem. The shadowy criminal grotrp who own the device use it to erase her official identity and send an agent (Jeremy Northam) to do the same to her corporal

Like The l’elit'all Briej' with a decent lead actress. the plot follows its single white female from predictable danger to predictable danger. with the baddies possessing all the satire ‘tell tire the plot before you kill me' failings that characterise Bond movies. Aside front the candy store thrills of the Internet. there are no great visual pleasures to sweeten the narrative

On screen almost constantly. Bullock lacks charisma but being fresh- faced. vulnerable and just plain nice gets her quite far. On the other hattd. Northam as her potential nemesis isjust plain errrbarrassing: a posturing. Anglicised Alec Baldwin displaying none of the latter's sexy menace. With no plausible villain. half the film‘s suspense vanishes and only ' Bullock's performance stops credibility exiting by the nearest window. (Simon Wardell)

The Net ([2) lll'll’lll Winkle/2 US, 1995) Sandra Bullock. Jeremy Nari/rant, Dennis Miller. Front Fri 6. General release.

The List 6-19 Oct l99517