7 The Hi-Lo Country
(15) 114 mins * * Having successfully mastered the American crime movie with Grifters, English director Stephen Frears tries his hand at another much-loved Stateside genre, the Western. Unfortunately, his latest film fails to transcend the clichés that litter a genre in which there now seems little new to say.
The drama, solidly elegaic in tone, is set in the post-
3 World War Two New Mexico community of Hi-Lo, where
‘ two cattlemen — young, impressionable Pete (Billy
Crudup) and dominant, impetuous Big Boy (Woody Harrelson) - defend the traditional ways of the cowboy in the face of encroaching mass commercialisation, embodied in Sam Elliot's acquisitive rancher. Caught between the two friends is Mona (Patricia Arquette), a married object of desire for both who ends up as Big Boy's clandestine lover.
All the requisite Western ingredients are here. Deep sunsets, cattle driving across widescreen landscapes, bar-room fights fuelled by card sharping and bourbon. Crudup even provides a voiceover to instill a proper sense of nostalgia for a time when men were men. But
Dudes: Woody Harrelson and Billy Crudup in The Hi-Lo Country
the story is only intermittently compelling, despite a screenplay by Walon Green, the man responsible for co- writing Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. The sense of painful, but unavoidable loss that suffused that classic film is missing, if only because Crudup and Harrelson are obviously too young to be chaining themselves to such outmoded ideals. In any case, the good ole boy stuff has to play second fiddle to a triangular romance plot that barely convinces. Patricia Arquette has played the femme fatale with some skill in several films, notably Lost Highway, but here her performance is less slow- burning than semi-comatose. It's just not plausible that Pete should risk the steady love of Penelope Cruz's perky Jospeha, and Big Boy his life, for the attentions of a woman who struggles to complete a sentence.
Luckily, Harrelson has enough energy for the both of them. Although Pete's tale is as much about himself as Big Boy, the otherwise watchable Crudup has at times merely to stand and watch as Woody runs the emotional range from heated to very heated. But it‘s a relief to find such a spark in a movie that merely sputters when he's not on screen. (Simon Wardell)
I General release from Fri 6 Aug
West Beirut (West j Beyrouth) (1S)105 mins i: t t 9r
A tale of two cities: West Beirut
109 THE LIST 5—12 Aug i999
It's almost a rites of passage mowe cliche now, we’ve all seen it ~ naive kid finds freedom in a war-torn city but eventually comes of age through the Violence he Witnesses to a world beyond the urban playground We saw rt in Hope And Glory and the saccharine coated Cinema Paradiso, and Bunuel turned the cliche on its head in Los O/wdados What surprises about Ziad Doueri's remarkany accomplished film is the deft, unsentimental handling of a delicate Subject lesson from history — the destruction of Beirut
When Tarik's (Rami Doueiri) school is (IOSed down by the new Muslim militia in West Beirut in 1975, he and his friend Omar (Mohamad Chamasi take to roaming the streets With their Super 8 camera. befriending a Christian girl, May (Rola Al Amini, along the way As his parents lives fall apart, because the political situatiOn makes it impossible for them to WOrk, Tarik finds himself in ever mOre bizarre situatioiis as he unWittingly Crosses various danger zones of the city
There is much to enJOy in this direct, yet emotive film, not least technically Ricardo JacQLies Gale's fIUid camera- work enhances the neo-realist feel of the film ViStially, he never misses a beat It is, however, writer/ director Ziad Doueiri who amazes The one- time Tarantino cameraman (Doueiri has worked on all four of his films) handles his debut With an impresswe maturity. The mm is constant thr0ughout, neither a hectoring histOry lesson nor a cutesy coming of age saga Doueiri is well-served by an excellent naturalistic cast, especially his younger brother, who plays Tarek With the swaggering Quirkiness of a young Martin Sheen (of Bad/ands days) Also, Stewart Copeland’s impeccable s0undtrack adds grayitas to what is already a class act
If proof were needed that the Spirit of De Sica and Rossellini lives on in today's filmmakers, then West Beirut is it C0urageous, Witty and full of humanity (Paul Dale)
I Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 6 Aug, Glasgow GFT from Fri 20 Aug
(15) 96 mins *t Films and sport have never been the
most comfortable of bedfellows. The usual suspect cliches have always been the hardest pitfalls to av0id. Examples such as Raging Bull, White Men Can’t lump or Bull Durham are some of the very few successes — unfortunately, Mick DaVis' The Match will not be pining them.
In a Highland Village idyll called Inverdoune, Wullie Smith (Max Beesley)
carries the physical and emotional scars I
of a childhood tragedy. His only way to
salvation seems to be through his 1
childhood sweetheart, Rosemary (Laura Fraser) who has returned from the Big
City. Or he can manage Benny’s Bar
football team to glory in their annual clash With Le Bistro, coached by the sleaZy Gorgeous Gus (Richard E. Grant). Victory seems unlikely, With the past 99 matches havmg been won by therlatter. This time though, Benny's very existence is at stake. The result of all this is not exactly a tale of the unexpected.
Flaws, cliches and gaping holes drag The Match down and hamstring any potential for plausibility. The Roy Of The Rovers ending is as telegraphed as some of the Falkirk midfield’s passmg and if Wullie's Total Football Recall is so amazing, why ask him to name the
eleven players who won the European ,
Cup in 1967.7 He's a Celtic fan — that knowledge shouldn't matter, for heaven’s sake.
And that perennial problem of accents
is especially appalling here - hang your
heads in shame Richard E. Grant, Neil
Morrissey and Pierce Brosnan. Particular mention must go to Samantha FOx, who has all of three words to say; her delivery of 'in your dreams’ suggests that she researched her role somewhere south of Brigadoon
Only the watchable enough sparring I
between the two leads makes this 3
nearly bearable The sole positive re5ult to come from The Match could be the blowmg of the final Whistle on the sports film sub-genre (Brian Donaldson) I General release from Fri 6 Aug.
. . ' L.
The big kiss off: Richard E. Grant in The
Match STAR RATINGS ii, i it w t Unmissable ii i it i Very 00d ii i * Wort a shot * it Below average it You‘ve been warned