Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Mike Newell, 115 mins (12A)
Heartless, Philip Ridley, 113 mins (18)

Never trust a blockbuster with a colon in the title

When did watching a summer blockbuster become so much like poring over a quantum mechanics textbook?

In my young days, before every big-budget action movie was derived from a comic, a computer game, a toy range or a theme-park ride, you could watch Star Wars or Ghostbusters and have a pretty strong sense of what was going on. But did anyone understand the byzantine plotting of Pirates of the Caribbean: at World's End or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? Even the titles are hard to get through.

A case in point is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which is just as convoluted as you'd fear of a film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, based on a series of video games, and saddled with a colon in its title. It opens with a set of captions, then a voiceover to fill in yet more information, and finally a flashback to the hero's childhood – three surefire indicators of a plot-clotted ordeal to come. In the flashback, the hero is an orphaned urchin who's adopted by the ruler of ancient Persia. Years pass, and the lad grows up to be a musclebound, English accented, permanently unshaven Jake Gyllenhaal. When he's framed for his adoptive dad's murder – a crime which could have something to do with the dead king's brother, Ben Kingsley – he goes on the run with an eligible princess, Gemma Arterton, who looks even less Persian than Gyllenhaal, however much orange fake tan she's slathered on.

Then Gyllenhaal discovers a mystical dagger which allows its bearer to rewind time by a few seconds and thereby have a second stab at sticky situations. You can see how handy such a device might be in a video game – or in reality, should you ever be caught calling someone a "bigot" – but in the film the dagger is used so sparingly it might as well not be there. It's just one of the many elements that the screenwriters have squeezed in, including some super-powered assassins and an ostrich-race promoter (Alfred Molina, the film's one bright spot), and topped by some arbitrary mythology about a subterranean hour-glass created by the gods to destroy the world.

There's so much of this stuff to plough through that the film has been edited down to confetti-like snippets. Gyllenhaal escapes from his enemies about once every minute, undergoing so many reversals of fortune that he's lucky not to get whiplash, and yet it's this very hyperactive pacing that neutralises any potential excitement. Gyllenhaal/his stunt double/his computer-generated doppelgänger may do a lot of leaping across rooftops and swinging from ropes, but it happens so fast that by the time you've registered that he's in danger, he's nipped right out of it. Even a sky-filling sandstorm passes by as if it were a light breeze. There's also no breathing space for comedy or romantic chemistry to develop – a grievous waste of the director's talents, given that Mike Newell also made Four Weddings and a Funeral. If he remade it today, it would probably have to be called Nine Weddings, Five Funerals: a Cryptic Prophecy about a Vicar from Another Dimension.

Philip Ridley, the love-him-or-hate-him British auteur who wrote and directed The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon in the 1990s, has been busy with plays and children's novels in recent years, but he returns to the screen with Heartless, a philosophical horror film set in east London. Jim Sturgess stars as a photographer's assistant who's cripplingly self-conscious about the heart-shaped birthmark on his face.

At first the film shuffles along gloomily – a downbeat "Broken Britain" jeremiad, in the vein of Michael Caine's Harry Brown, with the addition of some Dr Who monsters. But halfway through it finds a black sense of humour, and becomes a crackling Faustian comedy which features Joseph Mawle as a cockney Satan and Eddie Marsan as his businesslike right-hand man. Heartless still has more ideas than it knows what to do with, but they're just about balanced by its jokes – and its heart.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber gets in touch with his inner Samantha in Sex and the City 2

Also Showing: 23/05/2010

StreetDance 3D (98 mins, PG)

The UK's first live-action film in digital 3D, StreetDance has cameos from Britain's Got Talent sensations Diversity, Flawless and George Sampson, so it's fine as long as the music's pumping. But, unfortunately, the film-makers have rehashed that hoary old breakdance-meets-ballet plot, and if the stars' bodies are rubbery, their acting is wholly wooden.

Pimp (87 mins, 18)

This no-budget faux-documentary follows a chain-smoking pimp (Robert Cavanah) around the streets of Soho, trying to be both a red light district version of The Office, and a gritty gangster thriller. It's not too far off.

Cop Out (107 mins, 15)

Racist, sexist, uninspired and unfunny buddy movie, directed by Kevin Smith from a screenplay which could have been gathering dust since Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours came out. Who knows why Bruce Willis agreed to star?

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss