(15) 123 mins a x:
Strange, that when the newspapers are filled with stories about one country’s questionable justice system, along comes a Hollywood movie that points the finger at a different part of the globe. No British nurses here, however. Naturally it's an American who's the wronged party when a businessman gets caught up in a conspiracy in Beijing and finds himself at the mercy of the Chinese judiciary. Needless to say, Richard Gere (well known pal of Tibet's Dalai Lama) stars and the Chinese don't come out of it looking very good.
The script aims for an uneasy combination of edge-of- the-seat drama and political seriousness, but falls short. The scenes in a Beijing prison are certainly horrific - and no doubt they are more or less based on fact — but the film cannot match their authenticity elsewhere. The plot is simply absurd and the characters are too flat to care about
Jack Moore (Gere) is in China to sell Western entertainment to the pleasure-starved billions. A video clip starring beach babes with breast implants seems to
Chinese puzzle: Richard Gere and Bai Ling in Red Corner
do the trick, and a group of drooling communists buy it up. But all is not well for Jack. A night out on the town with his friend sets in motion a chain of movie cliches: the one-night-stand that leads to murder, the innocent party whom no one believes. Is it a set-up? Can you wait another two hours to find out?
Presumably, given his outspoken political and spiritual convictions — and the fact that he is persona non-grata in China — Gere's performance is heartfelt, but he has very little to go on. Jack Moore is ‘motivated’, we discover, by the deaths of his wife and daughter some years ago, and this single piece of character information is wheeled out whenever the script requires him to display his sensitive side.
An accomplished performance by Bai Ling as Jack's female defence lawyer makes up for the lack of chemistry between Gere and his lover (Jessey Meng) in the early scenes, and injects some much-needed romance into the film. Still, Red Corner remains a formulaic blockbuster with little wit, less subtlety and few thrills. (Hannah Fries)
General release from Fri 5 Jun
Square deal: Jennifer Jason Leigh and Albert Finney in Washington Square.
Washington Square (PG) 115mins -
With this adaptation of the Henry James novella, director Agnres1ka Holland sets out her stall with an incredibly accomplished opening shot In one take, the camera swoops from above bird-filled trees, down through the amber-tinted streets of an affluent New York borough to 21 Washington Square, where rt climbs the wall, moves through an open wrndow and explores the interior, before rapidly ascending an elegant staircase to the room where Dr Austin Sloper's young Wife has just died in childbirth
22 THE LIST 28 May ii Jun l998
Hereafter, however, the f.lm settles into a style virtually interthangeable With any of the better TV adaptarons of this sort of stuff ~ albeit wrth a more generous budget, fairly exguisne lighting and a remarkable cast
Catherine Sloper (Jennifer JasOn Leigh), after a childhood spent eagerly trying and repeatedly failing to win her father's approval, has grown into a gauche and awkward young woman When she encounters unemployed, charmer Townshend (Ben Chaplin), she soon falls in love wrth him, and he wrth her — or so he professes However, her father (Albert Finney), belrevrng that
Such a man c0uld never love his clumsy mouse of a daughter, Opposes their romance, accusing Morris of fortune- hunting. if they marry, he vows he will disinherit Catherine
Frnney dominates Vi/ashi'ngton Sgt/are. He plays Dr Sloper in mesmerisrng fashion, a patriarch wrth echoes of both John Huston and the sly, v-Jord-rollrng ways of WC Fields. Ben Chaplin, with not really much to do, makes for a nicely judged Townshend, neither entirely trustworthy nor openly duplicrtOus. As the romantic, deluded Aunt Lavrnra, Maggie Smith is as twrtchy, dotty and flustered as you'd expect.
But it's Finney and Jennifer Jason Leigh who make the flllll. Far less mannered than usual, Leigh's Catherine still has the whiff of charicature ~ but in this case, such self- consciousness is exactly right While the space and suggestion of James is better served on the page than by Holland's mowe, this rs still a faithful, well-crafted approximation. (Damien Love) ss Glasgow Film Theatre from Ffl 29 May Edinburgh Filmhouse from M 5 Jim
(15)113 mins ***
For all their variety, there’s a commonality to writer-director Alan Rudolph's body of work. All his films exist in a place twrsted a degree or so from the world we live in — a place very like here, only different, somehow. And when they make romantic comedies in that place, they turn out like this.
In Montreal, the lives of two couples intersect when Marianne (Lara Flynn Boyle), the neglected wife of ambitious young executive Jeffrey (Jonny Lee Miller), embarks upon an affair wrth Lucky (Nick Nolte), an older handyman she has hired to work on their sleek, modernist apartment. Lucky's wife, Phyllis (Julie Christie) — who tolerates her husband’s habitual philandering Within the rules she has laid down for their marriage — spies on him in a hotel bar, where she encounters Jeffrey looking for his wife. Without realising that each is the partner of the person with whom their spouse is having an affair, they too embark on a dalliance of sorts.
Much of Afterglow works as farce, albeit a slow-moving one, carried out under melting ice where the players often speak words wrapped in quotation marks. Rudolph even indulges in some Benny Hill-style speeded up action — awkward, mtrusrve moments, which, whatever the intention, don’t work. The power and porgnancy, though, lies elsewhere: in the spaces between actions, and the reflections and inversions between the two couples.
It’s also there in the dawning realisation that the room Lucky is creating for Marianne in her soulless apartment is a recreation of the room he decorated for the mystery child whose loss is responsible for the pain- filled canyon existing between him and Phyllis.
If ever a film were aptly named, it's this ember. Such is its undertow of melancholy, that an echo of sweet, unidentifiable sadness lingers long after your re-emerge into the glare and blare of the outside world. (Damien Love)
g Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 5 Jun. Edinburgh Fi/mhouse from M 79 Jun.
Slick boy: Jonny Lee Miller in Afterglow ‘l
STAR RATINGS * it iv it it Unmissable it i * a» Very ood a t ‘k Wort a shot w i» Below average w You've been warned