DRAMA SPIDER (15) 98min 0...

Those who thought David Cronenberg was all washed up (bar some French Canadian horror symposiums) after rehashing the virtual reality game concept one more time in the disappointing eXistenZ, better think again. His new film is a remarkable, consumptive, twitching, nicotine-stained return to form, and almost certainly his best film since Naked Lunch (3 likewise previously-thought unfilmable novel). Cronenberg has taken the Patrick McGrath’s filthy, evocative second novel and presented it on screen with the kind of clarity and maturity only ever exhibited by the great

An autistic scream into darkness

the source of the madness that kept Shore, is beyond reproach.

masters of the horror genre. A slow, him locked up from childhood until Ultimately, however, this is corrosive work, this may disappoint thrown onto the streets under a ‘care Cronenberg and McGrath’s baby, on first viewing, but you will be hard in the community’-type programme. and what a dark, beautiful mutant it

pushed to shake its imagery from your nightmares.

Ralph Fiennes in the title role is a revelation, a man mumbled and humbled by something just beyond the grasp of his feverish mind. Spider, aka Dennis Clegg, is an itching disease of a man. Bent double, shuffling from his boarding house in London’s East End to the

back again, he is a man hunting for

COMEDY ABOUT SCHMIDT (15) 124min 00..

Putting aside all vanity. and escl‘lex'rir‘g ltis kalier Sl“ll(} and eyebrow arching. Jack Nicholson donvnates every .‘raivte of this bleak comedy about a recertiy retired insurance administrator cr‘ a cross-c )tlllii“, odyssey. As he l‘i)‘.’éf$ll$3 the places of his ch;idhood. \‘Jarren Schmidt discovers that the map of lizs fro/en human neart is comprised. like his .‘Ztll‘.’() Nebraska. ir‘ostly of flat. empty spaces.

Ptunged into a ate-l fe crisis by ((EIIFOlllC‘l‘l. the death of his ‘.-.i:fe and l‘lfS daugi‘ter Jeannes upcoming ir‘arriage to a n‘ullet—spo"t:'ig garaterbed SETlOSll‘élt‘. Schmidt boards his :let \"linnebagc and heads for Denver. deterhxned to prevent the ill-advised nuptials. Before he leaves. in an atypically char table act. Schmidt agrees to sponsor a srx-year-old Tan7anian orphan boy called Ndugu. \"li‘tle ()l‘ tlie road. Schmidt narrates long letters; to Ndugu. -" >.-.'.".;ch -— ()l):t‘.’|OLiS of the fact that the boy can nezther read them nor grasp the life of quiet desperatio" by '.'."".l(}l‘. they .‘xere inspired -— the old man gropes his .vay to-srards tl‘e faintest hint of self-kno‘.'.'ledg‘;e.

This is N:c'ols:>n's ‘iln‘. not least because he allows us to see into the vacant space that :s Schmidt. '.'.’|lll()lll ever presun‘ing to ,udge ins character. But kudos s a'so due to the <:e"tr0ll(:—d (l rection Aiexander Payne and his scriptsng partner Jim. Taylor. vibe crewousiy colanorz ted on the satirical high school comedy Electron. There are fewer satirical barbs here. instead. we have the kind of painful comic <:-ir‘barrassn‘ent that n‘akes one laugh. ‘.'.’lll(l(;‘ and sgcirn‘ often all at once. iNigel Floyfl I General re/easc- from F 24 Jar:

Laugh, wince and squirm, all at once

Miranda Richardson proves it is possible to take three roles in a film the moment: his fourth novel, without coming across as a greedy theatrical bore. Her incarnations as Spider’s mother, his landlady and a prostitute are startling. Gabriel Byrne (The Last Great Wilderness, Young and Lynn Redgrave add exceptional Adam). We can only hope it support, while the excellent work by measures up to this bewildering Cronenberg regulars, cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, endless terraces of early the 605 and editor Ronald Sanders and soundtrack composer Howard

is. McGrath is much in demand at

Asylum, is about to see the light of day in celluloid form courtesy of Scottish director David Mackenzie

autistic scream into the darkness. (Paul Dale)

I Selected release from Fri 77 Jan. See feature, pages 78.

Lacks elements crucial to a buddy caper


ISpv with my little eye. something beginning with F. Flop? Got it in one. The or’ld-couple pairing of cocksure Eddie Murphy and laid-back Owen Wilson in this reworking of the 19608 TV adventure series a pitch with a lot of potential. Unfortuilately. the elements crucial to a buddy spy caper

".u nour. tight action sequences. sharp banter between the principals are pretty much absent without leave here.

Wilson plays a second-rate secret agent who is forced to team up with world champion boxer Murphy as cover for a ll‘lfSSlOll to Budapest to retrieve a terribly hi-tech stealth fighter plane. stolen by Malcolm McDowell's typically nefarious. foreign ito Americai arms dealer.

If only the stars had been given better direction. this could have been a much more entertaining film. They have both shined elsewhere Wllll other partners, and on occasion do so here. such as when Wilson is aided in an attempted seduction of Famke Janssen's sexy colleague by Murphy's ear-piece recitation of the lyrics to Marvin Gaye's 'Sexual Healing'. Unfortunately, director Betty Thomas (who has preViously done marginally better by Murphy in Doctor Del/met seems happy to set the duo off and let them ramble on and on to no great effect. while lines yOu expect to lead to punchlines don't. Budapest looks pretty and there a few sly digs at James Bond and Mission: Impossm/e. but there is precious little else to l(}(2()ll‘.ll‘.0ll(l the mowe. lSllllOll Wardell)

I General release from Fri 24 Jan.



THE TRANSPORTER (15) 92min 000

It's a glorified car advert. this film. opening as it does with a car chase showcasing a shiny black BMW tire-burning through the narrow streets of Nice and coming to an abrupt halt on the mountaintop overlooking the city. The smartly-dressed. chiselled-featured driver is Frank Martin (played by Guy Ritchie‘s performer of choice. Jason Statham). who from leather gloves to lack of emotional register is the epitome of Top Gear cool.

Martin's also an ex- British military man, now retired to the setith of France where he earns a very nice living tranSporting dodgy goods for dodgy crooks. no questions asked. But when Martin breaks his third golden rule and opens a package containing beautiful Chinese woman Lai (Shu

Glorified car advert

Oi, who's treated like a spare tire). he lands himself in the shit with gangsters operating an illegal immigrant/slave trade business.

What follows is a series of ridiculous action set-pieces: Martin kickboxing a dozen opponents in an oil slick. deflecting a missile with a breakfast tray etc. Statham looks at home with the action (he's trained in boxing and kung ful and director Cory Yuen makes full use of his day iob as a martial arts movie choreographer. The Transporters stupid and formulaic. but does deliver the goods. And there's a nice homage to producer Luc Besson's film The Big Blue and a better one to Raiders of the lost Ark.

(Miles Fielder) I General release from Fri l7Jan.

16—30 Jan 2003 THE LIST 23