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The Debt Collector

(18) 110 mins e e we

A juke box strikes up, the camera tracks across a bar to a man in shadows wearing 70s-style clothing. You could be forgiven for thinking this was a scene from Scorsese's Mean Streets, but it's actually the opening shot of The Debt Collector. The time is indeed the 19705, but the place is Edinburgh, Scotland.

‘Showdown, showdown,’ sings the juke box, as we watch undercover policeman Gary Keltie (Ken Stott) arrest murderous loan shark Nicky Dryden (Billy Connolly). The action then shifts to the present day: Dryden, reformed and out of prison, is a rich, happily married celebrity on the Scottish art scene. But Keltie, who has never progressed from that arrest - the greatest moment of his life - is determined to crash Dryden's party. A twisted sense of duty has left him bitter over his adversary's ability to put the past behind him. Meanwhile, young tough nut Flipper (lain Robertson) is determined to emulate his underworld hero and approaches Dryden for ’work’, much to the ex- criminal‘s disgust.

Former Scottish ‘hard man' turned art world darling - the lives of Jimmy Boyle and Hugh Collins instantly spring to mind. But writer-director Anthony Neilson uses their basic situation as the point of departure for a film that picks away at the nasty jealousies and small- mindedness that can fester beneath the surface of a

small nation.

Connolly takes further.strides as a screen actor ' (although the comedy baggage he brings slightly undermines the character's credibility in the viciousness department), while an intense Robertson proves that Small Faces wasn’t a flash in the pan. Stott is as excellent as ever: he makes Keltie boil with anger,

I :szszz- sates; . Loan arranger: Billy Connolly in The Debt Collector


frustration, righteousness and sheer envy. On an abstract plane, Dryden may have paid his debt to society, but Keltie is only interested in what’s tangible - he confronts Dryden with a group of scarred victims from his past, the individuals who cannot and will not

The Debt Collector is a film that will infuriate many


who do not want ‘Scotland' to be portrayed in this dark manner. However, Neilson deserves credit for going all the way with a brave piece of work that does not offer happy endings or easy resolutions. (Alan

a General release from Fri 7 7 Jun. See feature.


(18) 113 mins inter

Obviously fearful that familiarity breeds contempt, Woody Allen has been tinkering slightly With his long established formula of exploring the neuroses of Manhattan‘s artistic community. In Everyone Says / Love You, he added song and dance routines and in Deconstructing Harry, he opted for flashes of surrealism.

With his latest offering, Celebrity, the veteran auteur attempts a not always successful dissection of the nature and price of fame alongside the usual witty ruminations on the traumas of

22 THEU3T 10-24 Jun 1999

Model citizen: Charlize Theron in Celebrity

relationships (and the increasingly prevalent fellatio obsession).

With the director perhaps finally aware that - regardless of his domestic arrangements he's too long in the tooth to woo an array of beautiful young women on screen, Kenneth Branagh is cast as the Woody figure. Branagh is a hugely gifted, criminally underrated actor, but in this film offers little more than an impersonation of Allen. Perhaps it has something to do with the dialogue Woody writes - John Cusack had a similar personality crisis in Bullets Over Broadway - but someone really should have taken Ken

to one side and told him to ease up on the Stammering and hand-wringing. It's not that it’s a bad performance exactly, it's just distractingly reminiscent of an already established screen persona.

The film revolves around Branagh's philandering hack and wannabe screenwriter, Lee Simon. Typically, deSpite his awkwardness in their company, Lee is irresrstible to a succeSSion of dazzlingly attractive women. Melanie Griffith (what a stretch for her to play a vacuous bimbo), Famke Janssen, a never lovelier Winona Ryder, and the almost supernaturally statuesque Charlize Theron all fall under his spell, although Lee's own neuroses mean he finds true happiness with none of them.

The best moments of the film come when the writer attempts to pitch his screenplay to Leonardo DiCaprio, playing the hottest movie star alive. DiCaprio is fantastic, a breathtaking burst of energy and charisma. The fact that he’s poster boy to the planet shouldn't detract from the fact that he's also the best actor of his generation. (Rob Fraser)

a Selected release from Fri 18 Jun.

Cruel Intentions USSBmhsweee

A teen remake of Dangerous Liaisons with horny high school kids taking the place of the sexual schemers? Cruel Intentions could eaSily have been the latest in an increasingly flimsy series of mowes with 'sassy’ teen appeal, but, happily, it's terrific fun.

Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillipe) are two spoiled, wealthy step-siblings living on Manhattan's well-heeled, elitist Upper West Side. Sebastian has a bad boy reputation, while Kathryn is regarded as a pillar of the school and community. Both, however, are dedicated libertines, living only to pleasure their senses with sex. Bored of their indulgences, the pair devise a wager: he must seduce the new school principal’s daughter Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), who has sworn to remain a virgin until after marriage. If Sebastian fails, Kathryn gets his car; if he succeeds, he gets to have sex with his stepsister every which way. As the wager plays itself out, the three find themselves Spiralling into a tragedy based on Sebastian's sudden discovery of love.

Like Dead Man’s Curve and The Faculty, this film has all the gloss of a mainstream Hollywood movie while playing around with some edgy subjects, themes and dialogue. The blast of Placebo‘s ‘Every You Every Me‘ which plays over the opening credits QUlely sets Cruel Intentions up as flashy, brash and very, very sick. However, the film doesn't take itself too seriously - the black humour is a wicked delight, while the overall feel is something of a romp.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Sarah Michelle Gellar plays the bitch with real verve, burying her wholesome TV image beneath an inky cloak of cruelty; Ryan Phillipe also sinks his teeth into a meaty character. However, Reese Witherspoon, who was great in Pleasantvil/e and Best Laid Plans, impresses again in the most difficult role. Her Annette could have been holier-than-thou, but Witherspoon gives her charisma and attractive vulnerability. (Peter Ross)

% General release from Fri 11 Jun. See feature.

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe in Cruel Intentions

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