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The Independent Culture

AMONGST FRIENDS (Polygram 18 83mins) 'In the old days, we had respect, we had a code,' says an ageing Jewish gangster, and from there this tale of three friends' immersion in crime descends into Goodfellas territory so sharply it gives you the bends. The unknown cast serve up some braggadoccio-to- go, and Scorsese-wannabe Rob Weiss waves his camera around proficiently, but it all goes nowhere slowly. Available 30 March.

THE CEMENT GARDEN (Tartan 18 105mins) Andrew Birkin captures the grim poetry of Ian McEwan's novel with this blackly comic adaptation starring Andrew Robertson and Charlotte Gainsbourg as the siblings who realise their incestuous desires after the death of their parents. The camera is besotted by Robertson, and rightly so. He quite a presence: crabby and obstreperous, dripping arrogance. Available 30 March.

THE FUGITIVE (Warner 15 125mins) Andrew Davis's thriller exhumes a trashy TV series and breathes life into it. Harrison Ford is the doctor suspected of murdering his wife, hunted by Tommy Lee Jones and searching for the one-armed man, the real killer, who will supply his alibi. Twice as daft as it sounds, this is a two-hour chase mottled with outlandish touches such as Ford, posing as a hospital janitor, saving the life of a boy overlooked by a hurried doctor. A perfect popcorn picture. Available 1 April.

THE NOVEMBER MEN (Guild 18 98mins) Winter Kills, JFK, The Manchurian Candidate - all provocative conspiracy movies, and if you've seen one of them, there's no reason to wade through The November Men, Paul Williams's downmarket addition to the genre. He has conjured a potentially Byzantine scenario - a film-maker plans a movie about a Presidential assassination, but may actually be planning the assassination itself - but lets it dissolve as too many digressions scatter the tension. Available 30 March.

THE REAL McCOY (Guild 15 101mins) Karen McCoy is a professional cat burglar with principles (she won't use a gun) and a heart (she yearns for the young son who believes her dead). Unfortunately, she's played by Kim Basinger, who gives new meaning to the word 'vacant'. The director Russell Mulcahy is shorn of his pop-promo curlicues, while Terence Stamp buries his reputation and realises that the Sixties were a long, long time ago. Available 30 March.


THE LIE (Tartan 15 85mins) The lie of the title is the life which Emma (Nathalie Baye) has led with her philandering bisexual husband, leading to her discovery that she is both pregnant and HIV-positive. Baye's performance is ill-served by Francois Margolin's earnest direction. A last-minute shot at hope doesn't stick - the nihilism is frankly insulting. On release.

THREE SHORTS BY HAL HARTLEY (Tartan 15 84mins) Two of the shorts here - Ambition and Theory of Achievement - display sixth-form pretensions hardly indicative of Hartley's best work. But the longest film, Surviving Desire, about a Dostoyevsky-obsessed professor who falls for a student, is dotty and charming. On release.

TOKYO STORY (Artificial Eye U 130mins) There is painful insight here as Yasujuro Ozu measures out the life of an elderly couple in thimblefuls. They visit their children and are alternately spurned, tolerated and welcomed. It's about the ebbing light of life, the pull of death, missed opportunities. It's also uncluttered, immaculately framed and immeasurably precious. On release.