FILM / Bad soldier meets a worse actor: Under Siege Andrew Davis (US); Sniper (15) Luis Llosa (US); Romper Stomper (18) Geoffrey Wright (Aus); Leon the Pig Farmer (15) Vadim Jean / Gary Sinyor (UK); Honeymoon in Vegas (12) Andrew Bergman (US)

As the American military-industrial complex begins to lose ground as a credible movie villain, a new breed of bad soldier is popping up: the dedicated warhawk who, suddenly finding himself without a role in the world, goes mentally AWOL in spectacular, over-the-top fashion. Jack Nicholson's mad Marine was one of these loose cannons in A Few Good Men, and this week sees a fine, ripe example in the form of Tommy Lee Jones, the cackling villain of Under Siege.

You'd be forgiven for not recognising the type, though - when Jones first boards the mighty battleship he intends to hijack for a fabulous ransom, he's togged out as a grungey rock musician complete with bandanna, shades and tie-dye T-shirt. He's an acid-head gone sour, even humming Jimi Hendrix's send-up of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' when planning a particularly nefarious piece of treason (all of which is a neat way of somehow blaming the mayhem on Sixties excess).

Compared to Jones, and his equally crazed cohort Gary Busey (who triggers off the coup dressed in bizarre drag), Steven Seagal is a bust as the film's hero. His character could have been colourful - a humble cook (like the villains, he's not seen in dress uniform, indeed makes a point of refusing to wear it), who turns out to be a crack ex-SEAL and a dab hand at constructing incendiary devices out of squeezy bottles and sticky-back plastic. He's meant to be a nicer version of Jones's maverick, another disgraced soldier but one who rallies when duty calls. The part's under-written, though - he never gets to cock his snook at authority, and you can be sure that he'll be seen in those sparkling dress whites before the end.

And the 'actor' himself is a strictly charisma-free zone. The most successful modern action stars, Willis and Schwarzenegger, take themselves with a pinch of salt. But Seagal's a superhero of the old school, mirthless and imperturbable, with a permanently corrugated brow. His biggest display of acting bravura (which earned one of the loudest laughs in the movie) was an artfully strangulated gulp at the death of a respected superior. Under Siege is otherwise a Boy's Own flick - there's one solitary female, a topless stripper, just to show that these film-makers are equal-opportunity employers (they might have found a hero with sex-appeal for the other 50 per cent of the audience). It must also be said that the film took dollars 80m-plus in the States and nuked plans for a similar scenario in the Die Hard series. We live among barbarians.

Sniper is an action film of a different feather, a slow-burning affair about two sharpshooters (Tom Berenger and Billy Zane) on a covert mission to eliminate Colombian baddies in the heart of the jungle. Berenger's an old hand with no illusions; Zane's a rookie, an Olympic marksman who has never shot to kill . . . Most of the story is stalk-and-shoot, with much waiting in-between; the film aspires to be a brooding piece about the lonely voyeurism of the hired gun (the director, Luis Llosa, is a cousin of Mario Vargas Llosa and you suspect he harbours similar literary ambitions). But it's spoiled by a routine relationship between what are virtually its only two characters.

Like Llosa, Geoffrey Wright started life as a film critic and reckons that professional envy was partly to blame for the disapproving reception that greeted his maiden film, Romper Stomper: Australian critics gulped hard at this gang movie about the tribal rites of neo-Nazi skinheads. It's a fast, loud, energetic piece whose hand-held camera pulls you right into the heart of their pitched battles with rival Vietnamese youths - there's scant moralising and only glancing attempts to understand their behaviour. This, and the casting of Russell Crowe as the flamboyant, designer-stubbled leader, does draw the viewer at first into the gang's orbit, but Wright unveils them gradually as basket-cases. As a piece of confident, high-octane film-making, it's a notable first feature.

Leon the Pig Farmer earned its debutant directors, Vadim Jean and Gary Sinyor, two prestigious awards, the International Critics' Prize at Venice and Best First Film at Edinburgh. That too is pretty impressive, as is the film- makers' persistence: turned down by the usual cartel of funding bodies, they realised their project on a budget of pounds 160,000 and the benevolence of a cast that includes Janet Suzman, Brian Glover and Connie Booth. Leon (Mark Frankel) is a Jewish everymensch - a nebbish in the unmistakable Woody Allen mould, unsuccessful in his career and in love. The comedy turns on his discovery that he's a product of artificial insemination and, further, that a mix-up at the sperm bank means that his biological dad is not the North London net-curtain king, but a bluff Yorkshire pig farmer.

Culture shock sets in, not just between Jew and goy, but also between Southerner and Northerner, suburbanite and countryman; mutual stereotypes bump up against each other and emerge mostly bloody but unbowed. A sub-plot, which has Frankel crossing a pig and a sheep to produce the world's first kosher pig (alas, we never get sight of this wondrous creature), seems intended as a burlesque parallel to his own mixed heritage, but you're not quite sure what the conclusion is meant to be. It's an uneven but spritely, good-humoured piece with lots of neat throwaway sight gags (and also some dreadfully - dare one say? - hammy performances; perhaps the makers were overawed by their distinguished cast). Let's hope it brings home the bacon for its investors.

Honeymoon in Vegas has Nicolas Cage's private detective (divorce cases a speciality) losing his bride-to-be (Sarah Jessica Parker) to a suave gambler (James Caan) in Las Vegas. Caan gets to whisk Parker away for romance in Hawaii, but no nooky - this is couched as an self-consciously old-fashioned screwball comedy. Meanwhile Cage stews in his own juice, to the point of joining a platoon of sky-diving Elvis impersonators to rejoin his lady- love. The film is marred by lumpen direction and some thin writing - the best screwball comedies have feisty female roles, but here, while the two men are battling to exorcise woman from their past, Parker's character is just a bland cipher. Essential viewing for Elvis fans, however.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution