ACTION XXX (12A) 124min 00

You can almost picture the scene at Columbia’s Office for Dodgy Film Franchise ldeas. A group of coked- up studio execs gather around an oval table. ‘Listen guys,’ the chief executive leads, ‘the American action hero is in serious danger. Schwarzenegger is contemplating running for governor and Bruce Willis has started making serious films. Now we know that every Arab in the world is out to get us, we need a new hero, one we can sell soft drinks and Creutzfeldt-Jacob burgers off the back of. Any ideas?’

‘Sir,’ says a ‘yes’ man, ‘what about a Yankee James Bond. He’s got tattoos and he likes snowboarding and listening to Linkin Park’

‘That, my boy, is genius and so radical.’

Yeah, about as radical as a Nike logo. Prepare yourself for xXx (pronounced Triple X), a retarded new spy film that has been huge in the States and is tipped to do similar business here (xXx2 is already written and preparing to start production next summer). The only problem is it stinks. But lets face it, no one ever lost money underestimating the public’s taste.

Vin Diesel, the gruff baldie star of

Lowest common denominator genre dross

The Fast and the Furious plays Xander Cage, an adrenaline junkie who thinks he’s an anarchist but probably can’t even spell the word. When he gets into trouble with the law he is given a chance by NSA agent Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson) to wipe the slate clean by going on an undercover mission after some nasty terrorists in Prague, lead by nihilistic Yorgi (Marton Csokas) and beautiful Yelena (Asia Argento, daughter of European horrormeister Dario). Cue endless action sequences, which, though occasionally well executed, drag on interminably.

The offensive thing about this movie is how the filmmakers, and in particular screenwriter Rich Wilkes, try to have it both ways. Cage and his wacky friends open the film with a base jumping stunt that is being filmed in order to humiliate a hypocritical local senator. We are asked to believe that Cage and his friends are pro-chaos and anti-law, but of course as the story progresses Cage gets banged into true blue shape and emerges as little more than a dim-witted Bond who relishes the idea of personal freedom and individuality a lot less than a 300ft drop on a sponsored snowboard.

This doesn’t even have the requisite catchphrases or sassy lines that one has come to expect from this lowest common denominator genre. The acting is pure cartoon cheeseball and Rob Cohen’s direction is slack and unfocused, allowing the viewer to second guess every predictable plot twist. Whatever, xXx will be massive. We will soon be swimming in cancerous merchandise aimed at deflecting attention away from the fact that xXx is grungy dross. You have been warned. (Paul Dale)

I General release from Fri 78 Oct.

COME IN DRAF/‘il‘x S1 MONE (PG) 117min 0.0

Wry send up of idolatry

a age ‘.‘.'hen science fiction is ’."-',- s’crt step ap'xa; from science ‘a',‘.. New 7eaa'ider' Andrea'.’ N eco. tria’ie his name creatrtg ayatollah near futures. l list he (:xzmre': genetic "acisiii in (.3.’ittac.'i. finer: r'eaI-t, lV rur‘. amck in [he (Iowa/I Show. and now the ‘.'.’lll(3l ’l "ecu." has turned his saterzca! “yr/e V; l i", .‘rood. home of fine '.li‘:' '(:ii‘.

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film on; studio lot that we meet down and—out director Viktor Taransky (Al Pacinoi. Making his last bid at a comeback. his trita snot at lam 2 walks off the set '.'.’!lll his leading iady IWinona Ryder when she claliiis ‘creatwe differences. Sacked by his ex wife and stcdio head Elaine Christian lCatherare Keener: and on the run from m; creditors. salvation arrives :n the unliker form of Hank Aleno Has Koteasl. a dying computer genius who begueaths the Holy Grail of software to a director sick to death of act,r zss divas. The 'gift' s Simulation One ilierice Sfml)ne. ’)'81lll()ll(?l. a computer generated syiitnetx; goddess ‘.'.'L"o wont get

old. gun an ounce. l‘ave problems with lll.(llT‘,’ or cite 'r:"eati\.'e differences. lJltSll’l)('lES‘ll(ll\,'. the fake becomes an overnight success, but deligrit soon turns to dismay when f'aransky (l'sc()\.rer‘s he can". kill his creation and it's at this point that Niccol's send up

of Hollywood's skewed moyie star Idolatry becomes a parody of Mary Slir,:-lley"s Frankenstein.

With all that said. it's safe to say that Niccol turns up trumps on the ideas front. But. at the end of the cay. that's all that can be said for this comic fantasy. NlCCOl fails to make as much as he could from his satire on Hollywood's fake reality. While the script is warm and witty and Pa::ino's performance a fine return to the comic acting he excelled at in Scent of a lr'i/onian. the satire could do with being a lot sharper. Jokes like: "It's in the paper. it must be true!" simply don't cut the mustard. and the facile fashion in which Taransky creates. and the world falls in love with. Simone is ultimately lllll)(}l|(}‘.’£il)l(}. (Will. of course. be eating my words when it's rexealed that most of llo:ly‘~.'.'oo<l's current actors are in fact synthespians. lCatherine Broiiiley.

I COMO/(N release from / ri 1):") Oct.


DRAMA POSSESSION (12A) 102min .0

AS Byatt's Booker Pll/C-‘NIHlllllg novel Possession is partly a formidany clever. post-modern novel of ideas and partly an unashamedly old- iashioned love story. Either way, it's the last protect you'd expect to find in the hands of American playwright and director Neil LaBute. whose work to date on stage and semen has been marked by bleak iiiisanthropy and savage black comedy. These qualities. lovers of the book will be relieved. are nowhere to be found in his largely respectful if seriously flawed adaptation,

Possession takes place in two time frames. In present-day London. lowly university researcher Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhartl and brilliant feminist don Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow) are thrown together by the discovery of a cache of letters that suggest that two Victorian poets Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam) and Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehlei were secret lovers. If the theory can be substantiated it WI” overthrow all received ideas about the writers. so the pair embark on a literary treasure hunt. hoping to stay one jump ahead of a \vvell—funded academic rival. But as the pair pursue a series of clues. their own experiences begin to echo that of the l9th-century lovers.

Respectful if flawed adaptation

The most distinctive feature of Byatl's novel was its astonishing pastiches of Victorian poetry and prose. While LaBute's film can't hope to replicate the pleasures of the page. it does succeed in bringing the 19th- century half of the narrative to life. Jean Yves Escoffier's photography is sumptuous. and Northam and Ehle. both at home in period dress. convey the Victorian lovers' intelligence and passion. Where LaBute's adaptation falls down is in the present. Paltrow is. admittedly. a perfect fit for the poised. cool Maud. But turning Roland into a brash American is a big mistake. The novel's Roland. like the married Ash. is trapped in a frozen relationship. Jettisoning this plot strand. LaBute struggles to Justify Roland’s romantic inhil')itions. comes up with a lame back-story and still spoils the tales symmetry. But he does bear Out Byatt's sly thesis that her Victorian couple are less hung-up about (eye and sex than their angst ridden modern counterparts. (Jason Bestl I General release from Fri 2:3 Oct.

i.‘ .<' (lt‘f :xxx‘ THE LIST 25