Mike Figgis, the director of the Oscar-winning Leaving Las Vegas, seems to have developed a taste for the vagaries of obsessive love. Following a New York one-night fling with Nastassja Kinski, a happily married commercials director (Wesley Snipes) finds himself increasingly uninterested in his family and high-flying career. A year later he returns to New York to visit an old friend (Robert Downey Jr) who is dying of Aids and chances upon Kinski again in excruciatingly awkward circumstances.
Figgis's delicate tale is often a bit precious for its own good, but Snipes's vulnerable performance is just the most obvious of the film's quirky diversions. Figgis excels in fermenting the tipsy brew of chance and desire that intoxicates Snipes and Kinski. It's a pity that the rest of the film is held hostage to this opening. Ming-Na Wen as Snipes's wife struggles to expand the demanding caricature she's asked to play and Kinski is just eye candy. Joe Esterhasz penned the original script, and there's something crude about a gay Aids sufferer laying down the emotional law for his emotionally confused heterosexual friends and family. There's less to this than meets the eye but it tries hard to make it more.
Copland (15), Miramax (available to rent now)
Lots of noise was made about Sly Stallone's self-reinvention as an actor in this lethargic cop drama. In a sleepy New Jersey town run by corrupt NYPD officers (you can always spot a bent copper by his horrendous taste in two-tone shirts and Harvey Keitel turns up in some shockers), Stallone, kept off the force proper by a bad ear, plays a docile sheriff willing to turn a blind eye to queer goings on: following the death of two black kids in questionable circumstances, the offending cop re-appears in Stallone's home town the day after he apparently committed suicide.
Stallone isn't bad, but you sense that most of his artistic endeavour has been taken up choosing a part that won't tax him. If the price of putting down the Italian Stallion is playing a one-trick nag, then so be it, he seems to say. Stallone lumbers from scene to scene in a daze and, apart from the slight return of seeing the former action star's character punished in this film for a heroic rescue as a teenager, Stallone has little to do to embellish his transformation from dopey, thwarted and shady, to dopey, thwarted and redeemed.
It's a pity then that the film skews itself towards his concerns (an inferiority complex in his role as sheriff, his unrequited love for the woman he rescued) and ignores some of the better characters: Robert De Niro brings his usual gratifying detail to the Internal Affairs officer who is investigating the cop Harvey Keitel, to whom you also wish director James Mangold had paid more attention.