also showing...

No Way Home Buddy Giovinazzo (18) Jungle 2 Jungle John Pasquin (PG) Space Truckers Stuart Gordon (12) Love and Other Catastrophes Emma- Kate Croghan (15) Beavis and Butthead Do America Mike Judge (12) Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina Bernard Rose (15) Gilbey
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
No Way Home is a storm in a beer-can - but what a storm. Its director, Buddy Giovinazzo, shoots in a simple, economical manner, and his restraint behind the camera almost redeems his own script, knocked together from old disused plot-points picked up at the screenwriter's junk-yard. There's the slow-witted thug, Joey Larabito (Tim Roth), just out of prison; his vicious older brother, Tommy (James Russo), who may have committed the murder that got Joey sent down; and Tommy's wife, Lorrain (Deborah Kara Unger), who spends her nights stripping and her days dreaming of a better life, two pursuits that figure in the DNA of every white-trash movie heroine worth her salt. Throw in some sexual tension, a gang of thugs out for Tommy's blood, and a parole officer who warns Joey ominously "I could call at any time - I work round the clock", thus writing himself into the climax, and you've got a formula that screams "go straight to video, do not pass go".

And yet the film really pulses. Giovinazzo's attention to pertinent detail is excellent - every inch of Tommy's house is achingly authentic, from the fridge door obscured by novelty magnets to the mantelpiece where crucifixes fight for space with beer-bottles, the clutter reflected outside on a horizon where cranes stand permanently locked in silent combat. This precision extends to the casting. The peculiarly feline Deborah Kara Unger is astounding in her subtlety and steely control; you always get the feeling she's ahead of you. And I thought we had seen everything that Tim Roth had to offer, but he transforms himself as Joey, becoming more commanding the further he retreats into himself. The mixture of realism and hysteria eventually overwhelms No Way Home, but until then, you're seduced by that very combination; it's as though a family of Mike Leigh characters suddenly wandered into the middle of a Tennessee Williams play.

The children's comedy Jungle 2 Jungle is the latest movie outing for the television actor Tim Allen, after his lovely debut in The Santa Clause. As an uptight commodities trader who treks out to the Amazon jungle to finalise a divorce with the wife who left him 13 years earlier, Allen initially flounders - stress just isn't his thing. Luckily, he's allowed to loosen up some time after discovering that he has a 13-year-old son, Mimi-Suku (Sam Huntington), whom he reluctantly takes back home with him, and who is soon eating cat-food, scaling the Statue of Liberty and doing other wacky things in accordance with the demands of the fish-out-of-water genre.

In New York, Mimi-Suku roams the streets in his face-paint and loincloth, with a bow poised in his hands, and the director John Pasquin gets a palpable buzz of pleasure from allowing him to fit right in without anyone batting an eyelid: that's as close as the film gets to commenting on the nature of cities. The young actor Sam Huntington carries many of the sight-gags single-handed, and there's some charming friction between his saucer-eyed naivety and Allen's brittle wisecracking. Older viewers will find the ride jolly enough, but may ask why the pretentious documentary film crew from Last Tango in Paris keep popping up, or whether Pasquin could have found a more original symbol of cross-cultural pollination than the Peter Gabriel/ Youssou N'Dour song that is strategically aired during a multi- ethnic hoe down in Central Park.

Roger Corman would be proud to put his name to Space Truckers, a breezy science-fiction thriller whose imagination far exceeds its budget. Dennis Hopper plays a truck-driver who accepts an illegal assignment to ferry unspecified goods to Earth. When he gets around to checking his cargo, he finds a batch of killer robots bent on wiping out mankind. Don't you just hate it when that happens? Stuart Gordon, the director of Re-Animator invests Space Truckers with his uniquely gnarled sense of humour. The film's pleasures are numerous, from a wickedly funny sex scene in which a half-robotic Charles Dance desperately attempts to kick-start his mechanical manhood, to the general feeling that the whole thing has been shot in a King's Cross lock-up.

The entire budget of the Australian campus-based comedy Love and Other Catastrophes would just about buy you a round in a student bar. But let's not judge a film on what it costs - let's ask instead whether it has spirit, enthusiasm, and a character whose motto in life is "Try everything once, except incest or folk-dancing". Yes on all counts. This is an endearingly ramshackle portrait of university life that would benefit greatly from tighter gags and sharper observations, not to mention less in the way of group hugs.

If you're averse to twee comedies about smug students, then Beavis and Butthead Do America is the ultimate antidote, crammed with jokes that are as crude as the animation. The snickering, anti-social couch-potatoes make their film debut with this entertaining extended sketch in which a man hires them to "do" his wife. With the English language being a minefield of double-entendres to our priapic but chaste heroes, they set off not to perform a hit but to lose their virginity, a joke lifted from the Comic Strip film Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, where Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson misinterpreted a request to "take out Nicholas Parsons". It's all executed in the deliriously dark spirit of Robert Crumb, and, after a time, even the script's anal fixation starts to seem funny.

It's not perversity that brings me to Tolstoy after Beavis and Butthead - just the demands of assessing films in descending order of merit. It's just as well that Bernard Rose has helpfully named his adaptation Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, recalling Daniel Day-Lewis's sarcastic riposte in The Unbearable Lightness of Being: "Oh, that Anna Karenina". Without its author's name in the credits, the absence of passion and pain might have rendered the picture unrecognisable. The cast have flashes of inspiration - Sophie Marceau, as Anna, attains a level of poignancy in direct proportion to her character's dementia - but lose out to the lavish sets. Should you really leave a film of Tolstoy thinking "nice curtains"

All films open tomorrow