FILM / Underdog humour and top dog style: Boomerang Reginald Hudlin (US); Glengarry Glen Ross (15) James Foley (US); Unlawful Entry (18) Jonathan Kaplan (US); Mon Pere Ce Heros (PG) Gerard Lauzier (Fr)

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The Independent Culture
Overheard outside the preview screening of Boomerang: a teenage boy enthusing to his pals, 'That film was really black]' True enough, in the sense that this genial romantic comedy appears to take place in some parallel universe where both the upper and lower echelons of American corporate life are wholly staffed by youngish, attractive black professionals - a universe, that is, in which every African-American is almost as rich, nonchalant and well-dressed as Eddie Murphy.

Boomerang, though, can't really be thought of as a 'black' film in the sense that Juice or Malcom X might be, since it offers an aspirational fantasy so thoroughly secure that niggles about racial politics barely dampen its blithe spirit. Indeed, the one character who ever gripes about racism (Martin Lawrence as Tyler) is caricatured as a sex-starved bore who would soon stop his ranting if he could find a good woman. This relaxed attitude to its great unspoken topic soon becomes so lulling that the rare flashes of underdog humour (Murphy breaking off from a scholarly disquisition about the primeval terror which lurks in every Caucasian heart to shout 'Boo]' at a snotty salesman) come as rude if brief awakenings.

Murphy fans who first warmed to the man because of the mad wit of his stage act or his early film roles may find this new mellowness disappointing, and feel that his evident desire to play mature leads has made him discard his unique selling points; even that trademark gurgling-drain belly laugh has been damped down. There's certainly nothing in Boomerang as electric as, say, his gibbering con routines in Trading Places. And yet this movie is so far superior to such miseries as Harlem Nights and Another 48 HRS that its title now seems to be alluding as much to Murphy's recent career contour as to the plot.

Harsh language and a couple of mildly steamy bedroom scenes apart, Boomerang is, as Eartha Kitt would put it, just an old-fashioned love story (the singer is insultingly cast here as a pathetic older woman who is hungry for Murphy's body). It's the familiar one about the heartless Don Juan (Murphy) who finally meets his female counterpart (Robin Givens), suffers, repents, and reforms, albeit not in quite the most obvious way.

Genuinely funny moments are quite rare (some of them are provided by Grace Jones, as a demented, violently egotistical . . . well, as Grace Jones), and it's a good 30 minutes too long, but it's usually diverting and not half bad to look at, thanks to its director Reginald Hudlin (House Party, etc) and cinematographer Woody Omens (Coming to America, etc). If Murphy is really out to inherit the 'Dark Gable' mantle, he's made a promising start.

James Foley, the director of Glengarry Glen Ross hasn't done much to, as they say, 'open out' David Mamet's exuberantly scurrilous play, and he didn't really have to. Though it has a decent enough quota of plot, character, conflict and such, the real appeal of the piece is, notoriously, its language; and that component thrives just as well in this film's unremarkable close-ups and dimly lit bar-room and office interiors as it thrived on stage.

After its obscene fashion, Mamet's dialogue is as enjoyably contrived as Congreve's, and when the torrential, self-engrossed rants and shticks of his real estate salesmen are set in these grubby surroundings, their artificiality becomes all the more striking. One of the effects of this is to underline how much Glengarry Glen Ross is structured as a series of solos rather than an ensemble piece, and the presence of its A-division cast seems the less surprising when you realise that, for most of them, commitment to the project must have amounted to turning in just one big monologue.

In some ways it's shameless stuff, but a lot of fun, too. Alec Baldwin, as the swaggering company man Blake, makes a bloody meal of his macho pep talk to the deadbeat sales force; Ed Harris (always a terrific character actor) is even better as the turned worm Dave Moss, who talks loudly about ripping off the Head Office. But the only two characters who are given enough space to resonate throughout the film are Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), the top salesman, and Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), the one-time office whiz now facing unemployment and urgent hospital bills for his daughter.

Lemmon has already taken an award for his acting in Glengarry Glen Ross, yet one needn't begrudge him the tribute to feel that he suffers by comparison with Pacino. To be sure, he acts well, but in a style which allows you to watch him acting: there's something ingratiating in his presence, a desire to charm his audience and to milk the pathos of Levene's life. (At times, he seems pained by the foul words that the text obliges him to have in his mouth.)

Pacino, by contrast, comes on every bit as icily as Ricky Roma: he's far and away the most watchable member of the team, and he also gives vent to the script's funniest insult, of which the only printable words are 'you' and 'stupid'. Glengarry Glen Ross is too much like a plain record of some corking performances to qualify as a great film, but it does offer an opportunity to watch gifted actors barn-storming their way through some of the juiciest dialogue America is producing.

Now: have you seen Cape Fear, or The Hand the Rocks the Cradle, or just about any domestic paranoia thrillers from the last decade? If not, then there's a distant chance that Unlawful Entry might strike you as having a spark of originality. The terrorised couple with a fatal flaw in their marriage are Kurt Russell and Madeleine Stowe; the dimply, twinkle-eyed psychopath - this time he's a policeman - who charms them, manoeuvres them apart and then goes for the jugular is Ray Liotta, whose agent should be murmuring the word 'typecasting' at him.

For those with the energy to be offended by this kind of slothful plodding, the thing to be offended about is the unpleasant way it jangles masculine territorial anxieties and, notwithstanding some ethical squirmings, often tends to equate murderousness with virility. Jonathan Kaplan, who directs, does not scruple to indulge in a finale that exploits the single most deadened cliche of the slasher genre. Rather than spell it out, let's just say that this moment makes it a suitable release for the Hallowe'en weekend.

Gerard Depardieu is still single-handedly keeping the French GNP healthy, and this week's vehicle is called Mon Pere Ce Heros. It has a lot wrong with it - rotten theme music, gross sentimentality, an awkward way with slapstick - but its central gag is far more amusing than this might suggest. Depardieu is a divorced father who takes his pubescent daughter, Vero (Marie Gillain), on holiday to Mauritius. Naturally ashamed of her old man, and attracted by a local lad, she tells everyone that he is an international arms dealer, mercenary and spy, and that she is his under- aged mistress.

For reasons too implausible to bear much elaboration, Depardieu goes along with the stunt, and the farce heats up fairly nicely. Two things make it worth a detour: the small but effective comic touches Depardieu manages to sneak into his part, and the strong possibility that you will be able to pull rank on your friends when Hollywood remakes it as Don't Tell Pop He's a Terrorist.

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