NEW FILMS

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GANG RELATED (15)

Director: Jim Kouf

Starring: James Belushi, Tupac Shakur, James Earl Jones

Things we have seen too many times, part one: drive-by shootings, drug deals gone gruesomely wrong, jive-talkin' homeboys whose idea of being articulate is to not let their four-letter word count exceed double figures in one sentence. It's a pleasant surprise, then, that the new thriller Gang Related should not only give this tired formula a few welcome twists, but should also have its tongue pressed lightly in its cheek - a tone not generally encountered in this genre. James Belushi is spectacularly sleazy as a corrupt cop moonlighting as a dealer. When he accidentally kills an undercover cop, he and his partner (Tupac Shakur) are forced to pin the murder on a vagrant. Which is when the plot gets deliciously contorted.

HH

FIRELIGHT (15)

Director: William Nicholson

Starring: Sophie Marceau, Stephen Dillane, Lia Williams

Things we have seen too many times, part two: miserable 19th-century women being sold off to cold, heartless landowners and having corsets painstakingly laced and unlaced. Sophie Marceau is the Swiss governess who bears a child for the wealthy aristocrat Stephen Dillane, then devotes the rest of her life to finding the girl. Nicholson (who wrote Shadowlands) makes a disheartening debut as director with this starchy melodrama where the only pleasures come from the hysterically overstated use of symbolism.

H

EVE'S BAYOU (15)

Director: Kasi Lemmons

Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Lynn Whitfield

Things we have seen too many times, part three: films that begin with a sage female voice intoning the words "I was 10 years old when I killed my father/became a woman/ poisoned my guinea pig, etc" and then use flashback to trace the fall from innocence of the character concerned. It isn't the fault of the director, Kasi Lemmons, that her Louisiana locations have been overfamiliarised and devalued by Southern Comfort ads, but her screenplay doesn't add anything new to the gumbo. Despite some intuitive observations and fine performances, particularly from Samuel L Jackson as a philandering doctor, this feels for the most part like reheated Fried Green Tomatoes.

HH

THE AVENGERS (12)

Director: Jeremiah Chechik

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery

Unavailable for preview at time of going to press: see accompanying broadsheet for full review. The distributors appear to have so little faith in this modern adaptation of the cult television series that they have declined to screen it for the press - a bad sign. What we do know is that Ralph Fiennes dons the bowler hat and wields the cane as Steed, Uma Thurman pours herself into a catsuit as Emma Peel, while Sean Connery sashays around in a kilt as the diabolical August de Winter, who plans to take over the world by controlling the weather. Judge for yourself.

MAJORETTES IN SPACE: FIVE GAY TALES FROM FRANCE (18) subtitles

Director: various

While homegrown artists generally show themselves to be overly reverent of the written word, the French directors showcased in the "Majorettes in Space" programme of shorts experiment with form, narrative and visual language. The best reason for seeing this is Francois Ozon, the 31-year- old director of the forthcoming Sitcom, represented here by two incisive, lyrical works, Summer Dress and A Little Death. You will also be delighted by the five-minute film from which the collection takes its title, a playful manipulation of image and narration, which works like the best word-association game you ever played; and may be enchanted by Something Different, the story of a butcher with a secret life; and unsettled by One Moment, a slice of subjectively-filmed unsafe sex from the director Pierre Salvadori, best known here for his fine comedies Wild Target and Les Apprentis.

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Ryan Gilbey

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