Film: Video Watch

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The Independent Culture
Chasing Amy (tbc), available to rent now

The concluding instalment of Kevin Smith's loose New Jersey trilogy is an honourable attempt to scale the profane heights that Clerks reached and its successor, Mall Rats, so conspicuously failed to. Once again, Smith focuses on a trio of intelligent, sharp but cynically parochial twenty-somethings who refer to the universe beyond their suburban lives only when they need to give their jokes a bit of worldly breadth.

Plot is only useful in so much as it presents his characters a new topic for ironic deconstruction. So it is when Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), a bisexual comic book author, falls for fellow writer Holden (Ben Affleck), to the chagrin of his partner and best friend, Banky (Jason Lee). In terms of bringing any depth to the characters, though, Smith's handling of Holden's tempestuous affair with Alyssa and Banky's neanderthal response to it is one-dimensional. Smith seems to think male emotional immaturity is both hilarious (which it is) and an irreversible state of affairs (which it isn't), and uses Alyssa to prove his comic book thesis.

Amistad (15), available to rent from tomorrow

In case the blood-spattered first reel of Saving Private Ryan seems out of character for Steven Spielberg, here's an earlier film of his with a similarly gruesome opening sequence, in which 44 enslaved Africans aboard the eponymous ship slip their chains and kill almost all their captors.

While abolitionists Theodore Joseph (Morgan Freeman) and Louis Taplin (Stellan Skarsgard) team up with huckster property lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) to secure the Africans' freedom, Spielberg shackles the narrative to the tale of their enslavement and transport across the Atlantic, as recounted by Cinque (Djimon Hounsou).

Spielberg is also unhappy with the ugly nature of the dispute on which the slaves' freedom rests - are they the property of the Queen of Spain, the surviving crew of La Amistad or the naval officers who "salvaged" them? The equivalent ethical ambiguity in Schindler's List had a face, Liam Neeson's. Here, it's the less attractive facade of the US political system and its expediency.

Desperate Measures (18), available to rent from Monday

Imagine Children's Hospital meets The Silence of the Lambs with a first- rate cast. Andy Garcia is a San Francisco police officer who discovers that homicidal sociopath, Michael Keaton, is the only person able to provide the bone marrow his dying son needs. When Keaton inevitably escapes in the hospital, Garcia has to ensure that Keaton isn't killed in the pursuit, rendering the bone marrow useless. To their eternal shame, Garcia and Brian Cox, as his boss, play this ludicrous mess straight.