Where the Truth Lies (18)<br/>Doom (18)<br/>Keeping Mum (15)<br/>The Hidden Blade (15)<br/>Steamboy (PG)

I thought this was a double act...
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Where the Truth Lies (18)

Vince and Lanny (Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon) were a wildly successful comedy duo in the 1950s, not unlike Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, so why did the dream team break up at the peak of its glory? Fifteen years on, in 1972, an ambitious young journalist (Alison Lohman) intends to find out. As she interviews the pair and their associates, and the film flits back and forth between the 1950s and the the 1970s, the pieces fall into place to make up a picture of pills, women, Mafia connections and, perhaps, murder. Why else would there have been a dead blonde in their hotel suite?

Where the Truth Lies never lets you forget that it's a glossy pastiche of film noir, rather than the real thing. And being an Atom Egoyan film, it has more themes than it knows what to do with. But it's still a good-looking entertainment with a twisty mystery plot, and Kevin Bacon is so intense that he compensates for Firth being too stiffly English, and for Lohman being too fresh-faced. It's also surprisingly compassionate for such a lurid tale. Superstars can be monsters below the surface, it suggests, but below that they're human beings.

Doom (18)

Doom is a big-screen version of the video game. If you're not familiar with it, picture a simple-minded remake of Aliens: a squad of space marines wanders around lots of underlit corridors, toting guns big enough to dislocate your shoulder, and hoping not to be eaten by slimey creatures. It's slow to get moving, as the soldiers (The Rock among them) keep changing their minds about where they're going and what they're supposed to do once they get there. Still, when the gore eventually starts to flow, Doom's target audience should approve.

Keeping Mum (15)

Kristin Scott Thomas is a very desperate housewife. She may live in the scenic, olde worlde village of John Major's dreams, but her daughter is oversexed, her son is bullied, and her vicar husband (Rowan Atkinson) is so staid that she takes refuge in the tanned arms of her sleazeball golf instructor (Patrick Swayze).

But things change when she hires a new housekeeper (Maggie Smith) who thinks that every problem can be solved with a cup of tea or, failing that, a well-aimed meat cleaver. Keeping Mum is so old-fashioned and macabre that it could almost be an Ealing Comedy. And although an Ealing Comedy would have got to the point much more briskly, the sight of Dame Maggie clobbering someone with a shovel is worth the wait.

The Hidden Blade (15)

Even though The Hidden Blade climaxes with a swordfight and an assassination, its hero's blade does indeed stay hidden for quite some time, and so do his feelings. Masatoshi Nagase plays a samurai who is in love with his maid, but would never do anything about it, bound as he is by a code of honour that is being sloughed by everyone around him.

It's 1861, and his countrymen are learning to fire cannons and to march in formation - "the new English style of walking" - while an old friend is fomenting a rebellion. Yamada Yoji's follow-up to The Twilight Samurai is a poised, exquisitely acted romantic drama. It's certainly slow-burning, but it's burning with passion all the same.

Steamboy (PG)

Steamboy has the typical anime combination of wordy philosophising and insanely detailed visuals. What's less typical is its setting in Victorian England, or rather a parallel Victorian England of pre-electric aircraft, cars and automatic weaponry, all operated by valves and pistons. It's quite a departure for the director of the seminal Akira.

Starting as a Boys' Own adventure, the film escalates into apocalyptic mayhem, as two rival arms manufacturers demonstrate their wares by staging a battle at the Great Exhibition, and laying waste to half of London. The artwork is staggering, especially in the rendering of a mechanical cathedral that makes Howl's Moving Castle look like a council flat.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

Comments