The Chamber (12) 117 mins in:
The news that John Grisham is going to withhold film rights for his future novels will probably lead to a collective sigh of relief amongst cinema-goers, as movie versions of his legal thrillers have grown increasingly creaky and predictable. In The Chamber, a rookie lawyer prepares the final appeal for a Death Row inmate — the ending has only two conceivable options — and so you end up with a film that needs a lot more than suspense to sustain it.
Chris O’Donnell plays Adam Hall, a bright, ambitious y0ung lawyer who volunteers to mount a seemingly hopeless defence for Sam Cayhall (Gene Hackman). Cayhall was and is
Stay of execution: Gene Hackman in The Chamber
an unashamed racist, convicted and awaiting execution for the murder of two Jewish children 27 years before. For Adam the case is more than just a stepping stone to his future career, it is a vital link with his past, for Cayhall is his grandfather.
In a story that swrngs between being the fascinating and the tedious, Hackman — as ever -- is a toy, and the film only ever really comes alive during his scenes. By contrast, O'Donnell lacks the gravitas for this kind of role and cannot Carry the plot. The climax is highly watchable and there are some good supporting performances, but whether this is enough for your money is a question that Will surely not require a jury to decide. (Anwar Brett)
I General release from Fri 20 Jun.
-" §:'z ._ 7.
Johns (18) 96 mins *1: it
If the intention behind Johns was to create an unsentimental portrait of life as experienced by the young male prostitutes of Hollywood’s boulevards, then writer-director Scott Silver has largely failed. What faults there are in his film, though, are more than compensated for by the exceptional playing of the two leads, Davrd Arquette and, particularly, Lukas Haas. Christmas Eve. John (Arquette) wakes to find his lucky sneakers stolen along with the money he habitually keeps in them - the exact amount he owes a local dealer. He spends the rest of the day attempting to hustle the money he needs with the help of his friend Donner (Haas), a y0ung gay man new to the streets, who attempts to
26 THE “81’ 13—26 Jun 1997
Phone sex: Lukas Haas in Johns
persuade John to leave With him for a job in a far-off theme park called Camelot.
Johns owes a certain amount of its structure to Midnight Cowboy ~ the relationship between experienced hustler and ingenue, the escape to Paradise — and bears a thematic resemblance to My Own Private ldaho However, it has neither the relentlessness of the former nor the Visual poetry and lyricism of the latter, and any concerts of realism are undermined by a clunkingly heavy- handed, unresolved Christ metaphor. Nevertheless Arquette and Haas -- here showing a compelling fragility -— bring out the best in Silver’s script and imbue his film With moments of real poignancy, (Damien Love)
I Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 73 Jun. Edinburgh Fi/mhouse from Fri 20 Jun.
(15) 93 mins * ‘k it
There are few finer moments in film which bring out the over~actor than the death scene. In Trigger Happy, there are ample opportunities for this, all gleefully snapped up.
In an unspecified era (which could be the 30s) in an unspecified North American mob-led city (which could be Chicago), head hood Vic (Richard Dreyfuss) is due for release from the cookie jar and has vengeance in mind. His loyal colleagues in crime have spent his incarceration plotting his downfall, and now Jeff Goldblum's Micky and Gabriel Byrne’s Ben ’Brass Balls' London peak his list.
The phrase 'all-star' could well have been invented for this cast, as that glittering trio are joined by Kyle MacLachlan, Ellen Barkin, Gregory Hines, Burt Reynolds and, erm, Billy Idol in a caper which is directed with verve and wit by Larry Bishop. Even if he does have the touch of a man who recently graduated from a crash course in Coen Brothers/Chandler studies. (Brian Donaldson)
Love Lessons (15) 130 mins ti
Elvira Madigan director Bo Widerberg, who died earlier this year, bows out only partially successfully with this tale of sexual awakening in 405 Malmo. Stig (played by the director's son Johan) is a 15-year-old schoolboy whose infatuation with his married teacher Viola (Marika Lagercrantz) develops into a clandestine affair. However, their relationship is complicated by Stig’s growmg friendship With Viola’s husband Kiell (Tomas Von Bromssen), a gin-swrlling travelling salesman, and the amorous attentions of girl- next-door Lisbet (Karin Huldt).
Widerberg senior, Who also wrote and edited the film, is at his best when concentrating on the boy’s faltering steps to maturity, particularly in the scenes Where he and the cuckolded husband bond While playing classical music records in the kitchen. But this is love and lust from a male point of view. Of the women characters, Viola starts off as a reluctant seducer and ends up a vengeful harridan, while Lisbet shamelessly throws herself at Stig, despite his indifference.
Johan Widerberg acquns himself well, and Lagercrantz does what she can with a thankless role, While Von Bromssen, who looks like Aki Kaurismaki’s kind of actor, gives a touchineg gloomy, understated performance. But this boys—to- men stuff has been done before and only the film's sombre tone sets it apart from its many predecessors. (Simon Wardell)
I Glasgow Fi/m Theatre, Sun IS-Wed 781un.
I Glasgow; Odeon Quay from Fri 73 Jun.
Johan Widerberg and Marika Lagercrantz in Love Lessons
Madame Butterfly (PG) 135 mins * *
A few snippets of silent archive footage from turn-of-the-century Japan provide the most fascinating moments in this rarely-more-than-adequate new French film version of the Puccini warhorse. Even those with only the skimpiest knowledge of the operatic repertorre Will be familiar with the tragic love story between philandering American sailor Pinkerton and ill-fated Japanese siren Cio-Cio San, so it’s disappomting that director Frederic. Mitterand didn't take a more radical approach to the piece. What we get is a realist, meat-and-two-veg rendition in picture postcard Japanese settings rigged up for the occasion on the coast of Tunisia, and a cast headed by Chinese soprano Ying Huang, who looks sUitably vulnerable but lacks real vocal clout. The fairly routine accompaniment is by the Orchestre de Paris under James Conlon. Even beginners would be better off seeing a live production. (Trevor Johnston)
I Edinburgh Film/rouse from Fri 20 Jun Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 7 7 Jul.
ALSO OPENING Marvin’s Room (12) 98 mins.
An all-star cast -- Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro - earn worthy points in this drama about a troubled family. Keaton, who has been caring for her bedridden father, is diagnosed with leukaemia; estranged sister and single mother Streep has been coping With the mental problems of her teenage son (DiCaprio). Depressing material and a movie-of-the-week scenario is lifted by the Quality of the acting. (Alan Morrison)
I Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Cameo from Fri 20 Jun.