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The Independent Culture
Alex Cox's first film, Repo Man, was about a slightly nave but resourceful young man who drove a car for a living, got into trouble and learned a thing or two about the ways of the world. His latest film, Highway Patrolman (15), is about a slightly nave but resourceful young man who drives a car for a living, gets into trouble and learns a thing or two about the ways of the world.

And yet the worlds created by the two films could scarcely be more distinct: Repo Man was a glorious jumble of a film, crammed with more ideas than it could comfortably digest; Highway Patrolman (or El Patrullero - Cox shot the film in Mexico with an all-local cast and crew) is a plain, linear story shot in long, swooping takes and a stoical tone. It's an innocent's progress, following Pedro Rojas (Roberto Sosa) as he graduates from police academy brimming with chivalric values which swiftly become compromised by the demands of his new wife and child, his affair with a prostitute and a culture of back-handers. There seems to be barely a shred of Anglo-Saxon sensibility in the film to hint that it wasn't made by a Mexican, and though a studied coolness to its images can limit its power as a thriller (the harsh desert landscapes upstage all but the most bloody action), it's an enjoyable trip and Cox's most accomplished film for a decade.

Bryan J Singer's micro-budgeted debut Public Access (no cert) comes supplied with an unfortunate director's statement about the United States being 'an intensely media-oriented society' and other such apercus. Trust the tale, not the teller: in fact, Singer's contemporary gimmick of a dangerous loner exploiting his right to broadcast on a local cable television station isn't much more than a technological trimming on narrative architecture that's squarely in the American vein. Critics have invoked David Lynch, but it echoes just as eerily with the Mark Twain of 'The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg'.

The tale: Whiley Pritcher, a tall, dark, neat and unnervingly composed young man (the impressive Ron Marquette), wanders into a small community, rents a weekly hour on cable and asks a simple question - 'What's wrong with this town?' - that soon opens up festering resentments to the air. It's an arresting beginning, shot in a baroque style that defies a puny budget, and for all that the film's messy conclusion doesn't manage to follow through, Public Access is a real calling card.

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