FILM REVIEWS / Blown away by events: Other new releases - Blown Away, Director: Stephen Hopkins; When a Man Loves . . ., Director: Luis Mandoki; Naked in New York, Director: Dan Algrant; The Slingshot, Director: Ake Sandgren

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The Independent Culture
Five . . . A beleaguered Hollywood studio (MGM), decides that an action movie about a bomb disposal squad is just the ticket for a major summer blockbuster. Four . . . it casts Jeff Bridges as an ex- IRA terrorist turned American bomb disposal officer (]). Three . . . Tommy Lee Jones, nursing a truly spectacular accent, comes on board as a mad Irish terrorist who assembles his devices to the thump of U2. Two . . . a dreary poster features an explosion and the most pathetic countdown copyline ('5-4-3-2-1-Time's Up') ever. One . . . it fizzles out in America to derisive reviews. Zero . . . it opens in Britain in the week of the IRA ceasefire.

Events have rendered Blown Away (15) instantly obsolete - or would have done, had the script not been careful to note that Jones's character is 'too crazy for the IRA' and instead has mysterious links to the Red Brigade and Libya. Anyway, the film's already daft enough to be well redundant. Passing pleasures include a brooding Gothic castle where Northern Ireland apparently locks up its reprobates (much more picturesque than an H- Block); a hokey scene set in a booby-trapped kitchen during which the camera zooms in on every imaginable household gadget as a potential bomb; and Lloyd Bridges sporting a merry Oirish twinkle and sipping Guinness the colour of weak tea.

When a Man Loves a Woman (15) has a poster that shamelessly conjures Sleepless in Seattle (two city skylines, Meg Ryan in a clinch with Andy Garcia): a serious study of alcoholism masquerading to the unwary as a romantic comedy. As Alice, the secret drinker, Ryan convincingly extends her range, although she makes an improbably luscious lush: even in extremis, she can't quite suppress her sparkle. Garcia, too, gives an impressive performance as Michael, the husband so caring on the outside, but quietly selfish and domineering.

The screenplay tries for a measure of subtlety. Visiting Alice at the clinic, Michael enters the television room and is greeted amicably by the assembled patients. But their touchpaper could ignite at any moment and the scene conveys a real sense of unpredictability and danger. Mostly, though, the secondary characters (Ellen Burstyn, in a bit part as Alice's bossy, belittling mother; a sympathetic doctor who turns out to be an ex-alcoholic) are thrown away. The film is only interested in the single central relationship, which makes its vision blinkered and small.

The film manages to steer round some cliches - we're spared the bit where Alice, on the wagon, finds a bottle of vodka from her former cache and must stare down temptation - but there are some regrettable scenes. Michael reluctantly attends a meeting for the families of alcoholics and sees all his worst prejudices confirmed. 'My name is Joanna' announces someone. 'Hi Joanna]' chorus all the rest. And he listens, glum and glassy eyed, to a speech which concludes 'I not only have my feelings, I have feelings about my feelings.' This works as comedy - but there's no avoiding that inexorable moment when we hear 'My name is Michael.' 'Hi Michael]'

Near the end, Alice gives a talk at Alcoholics Anonymous (which has, incidentally, appended a disclaimer to the film's end credits) to mark her first six months of sobriety. She tells of Michael, who has left her and moved to another city, about her regrets and all the things she wished she'd said. And you know - this is giving nothing away - that at the end the camera will scurry around a little before suddenly discovering him in the crowd, eyes brimming with tears. That's the problem with When a Man Loves a Woman: it's a tough story that has to steer through too many U-turns in order to leave us feeling good.

Naked in New York (no cert) is a first film which secures the services of an astonishing cast (Eric Stoltz, Jill Clayburgh, Tony Curtis, Kathleen Turner, Ralph Macchio and many more VIP cameos), thanks, probably, to the good offices of its executive producer - Martin Scorsese. The story, in which a budding playwright goes to Broadway and meets a bevy of celebrities sending up their real selves on the way to his nemesis, could be The Player, transposed to the East Coast theatrical scene (which, in its own sweet way, is every bit LA's co-equal in narcissism and venality).

Except that the enjoyable satirical bits are wrapped in a deeply mundane yarn about our hero's on-off relationship with his small-town girl. But Eric Stoltz is properly nerdy as the young writer, while ripe performances from Tony Curtis as a brash, pragmatic impresario and Kathleen Turner as an ageing but randy TV diva well repay the price of admission.

The Slingshot (12) wants to reincarnate My Life as a Dog, being another Swedish period piece about growing up: in 1920s Stockholm, the 12-year-old Roland has a rough time of it, being of both Jewish and Socialist stock. But he is a resilient sort, and a gifted inventor: the thick, old-fashioned (and illegal) condoms his parents dispense to the poor provide raw material for 'balloons with knob' and the famous slingshot. The story is autobiographical and the hero clearly remarkable, but the film has none of Dog's quirkiness; it's very much the work of a second- hand sensibility.

(Photograph omitted)