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(18) 100 mins *****

Finally passed uncut by the British Board of Film Classification, David Cronenberg’s Crash is not - as the Daily Mail would have you believe - a film which will inspire copycat car crashes or copulation amid the ensuing wreckage. Instead, it is a film about the future of sex. One possible future, as originally conceived by J.G. Ballard in his 1973 novel, and now re-envisioned by Cronenberg as a cool, insidioust disturbing study of an evolving human pathology based on eroticised car crashes, techno- fantasies and the forging of an entirely new form of human sexuality.

The sex life of bored, alienated, middle-class couple James Ballard (James Spader) and his wife Catherine (Deborah Unger) has degenerated into their having sex with strangers and then relating their detached experiences to one other. Following a near fatal car crash, the injured Ballard becomes involved in a hesitant yet oddly erotic relationship with the driver .of the other car, Dr Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), whose husband died in the accident. Like him, Dr Remington has been both transformed and released by the crash, which opens her up to a new, frightening, yet exciting form of sexual expression. Together with Ballard’s glacial wife Catherine, they gravitate towards the marginal world of the enigmatic Vaughan (Elias Koteas), a scientist/photographer whom they first encounter at a clandestine restaging of James Dean's death crash.

Cronenberg offers no easy point of entry or identification; instead, from the outset, he forces us to accept these characters, and the peripheral world they inhabit, at face value. And as they travel deeper into the sexual hinterland only sketchily mapped out by Vaughan and his acolytes, the film makes increasing demands on the audience. Dr Remington is sexually

Collision course: James Spader and Holly Hunter in Crash

excited by crash test videos; Ballard watches in the rear- view mirror as his car passes through a car wash and his wife and Vaughan have rough sex on the back seat; Ballard has sex in a wrecked car with Gabrielle (Rosanna Arquette), whose callipered legs he finds a particular turn on.

Every hetero and homosexual permutation is explored as the fixed boundaries of ’normal' sexuality give way to a creatively 'perverse' fluidity. Also, crucially, one can see Ballard and Catherine’s desperate sexual experimentation as not only the medium through which they re-invent themselves, but also the route by which they rediscover their emotional connection with one another. Provocative, extreme and intellectually exhilarating, Crash is pure, distilled Cronenberg.

(Nigel Floyd) I Selected release from Fri 6 Jun.

Ready for action: Nicolas Cage in Con Air

training and strong sense of honour to save the innocents in the air from certain death

Even under a constant attack of big bangs, act'on set-pieces and dry one- liners, the audience can't help but wrinkle its collective brow at the piot's illogical hiccups. Before the opening Credits are finished, Cameron has been sent to Jail for eight years, although his crime was a clear case of self-defence while protecting his Wife in front of a bar full of Witnesses —- OJ himself w0uld do a double-take at this definition of JUSIICC. From here on, character motivation is hazy at best and the engine driving the story is more twm-propellor than rocket- fuelled.

Con Air

(15) 112 mins *‘k‘k it down, strap yourself in, stick your

head into the roar of a jet engine. Con Air, the first of 1997’s summer blockbusters, is a typically unsubtle Hollywood good-guys-bad- guys actioner. It’s a noisy, explosive affair in the mould of The Rock and Bad Boys both of which also bear the brand of producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Nicolas Cage plays manslaughter

24 THE LIST 30 May-12 Jun 1997

parolee Cameron Poe, whose prison plane ride home is hlJaCKEd by VICIOUS convict Cyrus 'The Virus' Grissom (John Malkowch) and his ‘lifer' cohorts, Meanwhile, on the ground, US Marshall John Cusack reluctantly ioms forces With boorish DEA. agent Colm Meaney when the mortality rate among the guards on board becomes known. The authorities’ best hope, however, lies in their unexpected ally Cameron, who draws on his military

lvlalkoVich GHJOYS his vacant-eyed Villain turn, Cage pumps tip the muscles for his new action hero persona and support roles by Meaney, Steve Buscemi and Ving Rhames add to the character spectrum lt's useless to over-analyse a movie like this, but it WOuld have been better to have been offered a club class trip rather than being packed off into economy (Alan Momson) I General release from Fri 6 Jun


(18) 91 mins *‘k‘k

Just say yes, kids. While politicians are hellbent on demonising the role of drugs as wholly and conclusively negative, filmmakers continue to be as ambivalent towards drugs and drug- taking as ever. Or is that simply because artists recognise that it is not, and never has been, a cut and dried issue7 While Trainspotting is the most obvious UK addition to the canon, American filmmakers, particularly those focusing on the black experience, continue to be hooked on the subject.

In Gridlock ’d, writer-director Vondie Curtis Hall who also plays a rather scary hood - offers us a pedestrian stroll through the highways and byways of heroin consumption. Stretch (Tim Roth) and Spoon (the late Tupac Shakur) find flatmate Cookie (Thandie Newton) in overdosed mode and, after much ineffectual first aid, eventually seek professional medical help. The modem has a stark impact on Spoon who decides to get clean, backed up unconvrncingly by Stretch.

At this pornt their problems really kick in, with bureaucracy forling them at every turn the hospital, the rehab clinic and the whole US healthcare system and their tails being hotly pursued by both the cops and the hoods

Hall attempts many things at once a satire on the media and government policy, a black comedy and a druggy buddy movie but fails to settle convincinglyc‘in anyone. Roth is at his most impressively edgy »~ he has perfected that smiling grimace while Tupac proves that music may not have been his orin avenue to fame. Newton is somewhat under-used, only (lon‘rinatinq the screen when uttering banalities as the Jazz poetess or being carted around naked while in her (Olild

While the film seems intent on leading the characters down the path of hell, damnation and cold turkey horror forever, Hall ends up pulling back from the abyss and gives us a finale whose fence is so substantial, we

, can all get a seat (Brian Donaldson) ' l Selected release from Fri 30 May.

Drug buddy: Thandie Newton in Gridlock’d


i * it t it it Outstanding . it ii iii 1' Recommended i t it * Worth a try it * So-so 1': Poor