Also showing: The World's Fastest Indian (12A) <br/> Two for the Money (15)<br/> Favela Rising (12A)<br/> The Ketchup Effect (18)<br/> The Hills Have Eyes (18)

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The World's Fastest Indian (12A)

In 1963, Bert Munro travelled from Invercargill, New Zealand, to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to test his customised motorbike in the speed trials. The remarkable aspect of this trip, as well as its distance, is that Munro was in his sixties at the time, and his bike, an Indian Twin Scout, wasn't much younger. Judging by Anthony Hopkins' performance, Munro was a loveable character as well. He also had an accent that teleported mid-sentence between New Zealand and Cornwall, but that could just be Hopkins.

Roger Donaldson, the writer-director, made a documentary about Munro in 1971, before he journeyed to the States to become a successful director of Hollywood thrillers. He's been planning to turn that documentary into a feature film ever since, but the time it's taken him to push it across the finish line might indicate that, despite its amiable hero, it was never a very high- powered vehicle, after all.

When we meet Munro, he's in his garden shed, tinkering away at his bike. After some very faint anxiety over whether he'll be able to afford his passage to California - he remortgages his house, end of anxiety - Munro touches ground in America, and from then on The World's Fastest Indian is a hybrid of David Lynch's The Straight Story - that is, a trundling, OAP road movie - and the Crocodile Dundee films, with Hopkins standing in for Paul Hogan as an innocent Antipodean abroad.

There are some panoramic views of desert skies, but there are no twists along the road, and there's never any doubt that Munro will get to Utah in time for Speed Week. Once there, the officials don't want to let him ride his rickety contraption, and Munro has some worries about the bike's instability. But, again, any obstacles he faces are too small to add up to high drama. The World's Fastest Indian is certainly the only film I can remember in which the closest thing to a subplot is the hero's prostate trouble. It's benign, gentle stuff, but it can't build up much speed when it's fuelled by good will alone.

Two for the Money (15)

One of the highlights of A Cock And Bull Story is the scene in which Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon swap Al Pacino impressions, but Pacino himself seems to have no qualms about caricaturing his bug-eyed huckster persona, and in Two for the Money he's back as the same table-thumping, ebulliently swearing troll that he's been playing ever since The Devil's Advocate, if not before.

In this instance, the troll runs a company which sells sports betting tips over the phone. When he hears about Matthew McConaughey, a former college football star with a knack for picking winners, he flies the young man from Las Vegas to New York, and grooms him to be his successor.

Presumably, the filmmakers thought that if they gave Pacino a young sidekick, some grandstanding speeches, some designer suits and a Brooklyn Bridge backdrop, then the resultant tidal wave of testosterone would be enough to keep the film rolling along. And for the first hour, they were right.

In its 1980s, Wall Street way, Two for the Money starts as a guilty pleasure. After a while, though, some semblance of a plot is required, and the director can't seem to decide between the six or seven of them he hints at.

Jaime King, Armand Assante and Jeremy Piven all make appearances, each of them promising to add a meaty subplot, but then they all vanish without affecting the outcome at all. By the end, it's a cock and bull story.

Favela Rising (12A)

Favela Rising is an award-winning documentary with a charismatic hero, a vibrant setting, a galvanising message, and an edge-of-your-seat structure to match those of any fictional film.

It's set in the same Rio de Janeiro slum settlements which featured in City of God - overcrowded shanty towns where a machine-gun is the must-have fashion accessory for teenagers, and where children dream of growing up to be druglords. If there is any hope in these areas, much of it has been sparked by the messianic Anderson Se, one of the men behind the AfroReggae cultural group.

They run educational workshops, they raise awareness and funds with their funk-rock-rap band, and they risk their lives, daily, by speaking out against drug trafficking and police brutality. Se's bravery and altruism should shame the directors who tried to make heroes out of the narcissistic rappers of Hustle & Flow and Get Rich or Die Tryin'. And there's a heart-stopping, tear-jerking twist in the closing minutes which no screenwriter would have dared to invent.

The countdown to the movie version starts now.

The Ketchup Effect (18)

Sofie is not yet 13 when she goes to a party to celebrate her high-school matriculation, and then passes out after swigging too much of a home-made cocktail. While she's unconscious, someone snaps compromising photos of her, which is enough to earn her a reputation as a slut.

Like a more realistic, Swedish Mean Girls, The Ketchup Effect is a horribly convincing account of adolescence's perpetual popularity contests. What lets it down is an ending that's fluffier and softer than any of the teddy bears Sofie shoves under her bed.

The Hills Have Eyes (18)

The Hills Have Eyes is a remake of Wes Craven's 1977 film about a family that's set upon by mutant cannibals in the desert. It's so faithful to the original, right down to lines of dialogue, that there scarcely seems to be any point - except, of course, that 1970s horror remakes have become a nice little earner.

To be fair, this is superior to the vapid likes of The Fog and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, if only because it prioritises blood and guts over glossily good-looking TV actors. But it's not scary enough to replace Craven's film in the affections of horror buffs, especially after we see the mutants in daylight.

However advanced their make-up is, they still look as if they're on their way to a Hallowe'en party.