FILM / Critical round-up

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The Independent Culture
NOWHERE TO RUN

'Above and beyond the plot's conflicts, another battle rages, between art and exploitation. One side of the film wants Van Damme to upgrade his image and be the classic Hollywood loner, like Gary Cooper or, of course, Alan Ladd in Shane. It does not work: the shallow script is against him and, for Van Damme, being serious means being monotonous. Another side wants him to appease his fans, bare his chest and leap into mayhem like Flash Gordon, saving a propane gas container from exploding with half a second to spare. This is the side that wins.' Geoff Brown, Times.

'Nowhere to Run is the latest step in the effort to domesticate the Belgian bruiser. As such, it is a resounding failure. Unlike Schwarzenegger or Willis, Van Damme is utterly lacking in charisma, his bland stoicism failing to suggest anything other than, well, bland stoicism. . . And as for (Rosanna) Arquette, it is sad to see this once promising actress reduced to playing little more than bearnaise sauce to Van Damme's slab of beef.' Stephen Amidon, Financial Times.

'Nowhere to Run turns into a soggy eulogy to rural life and the days when firm and tanned action heroes could not possibly be mistaken for homoerotic icons since they had their womenfolk to protect.' Lizzie Francke, Guardian.

PASSENGER 57

'Helping itself liberally to other movies' tried and tested ingredients, Passenger 57 is about as fresh as an in-flight meal. Even so, it has a certain appetising quality to it and, seasoned with an unintended humour, it will do for those hungry for Hollywood in an otherwise sparse week.' Lizzie Francke, Guardian.

'The cabin explosions and daredevil leaps round the landing gear are all decently staged. If you need to waste time seeing a potboiler, Passenger 57 will do the honours nicely.' Geoff Brown, Times.

I WAS ON MARS

'Fans of Stranger Than Paradise and Johnny Suede will find themselves on familiar turf here, though the film lacks the bizarre sublimity of those two efforts. Director Levy has a wonderful eye for detail . . . But the film fails to establish a consistent comic pitch, undermining its fine observation and characterisation with an unevenness worsened by a tendency to indulge in weirdness for its own sake.' Stephen Amidon, Financial Times.

'The Swiss director Levy and his co-writer and star, Maria Schrader, give it a zestful twist of their own. In particular, Schrader brings a wonderful stoicism to the neatly-laundered Silva. She speaks few words throughout the film, the minutest of gestures reveal far more.' Lizzie Francke, Guardian.

THE ABYSS: SPECIAL EDITION

'When it was first released in 1989, The Abyss was a half-hour away from being a very strong movie indeed . . . Unfortunately, Cameron's final version is a half- hour longer than the original, when what the film always needed was to be a half-hour shorter.' Stephen Amidon, Financial Times.

'Watching the undoubtedly atmospheric and, at moments, quite exhilarating film . . . it strikes me that it could have done with a judicious snip. You can't say that to the beefy action boys, for whom size will always count.' Lizzie Francke, Guardian.

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