New Films


Director: Manuel Pradal

Starring: Vahina Giocante, Frederic Malgras

Pradal's handsome debut feature has seductive surface qualities, and its disjointed scenes of adolescent decadence are engaging. But despite the spirited sex and violence, it's empty, pretentious stuff, a sunny triumph of form over content. West End: ABC Swiss Centre


Director: Dan Rosen

Starring: Matthew Lillard

First-time writer-director Rosen must have had some awful experiences at university. All the students at his nameless American college are trying to double-cross and butcher each other, tempted by an obscure regulation that awards straight A-grades to room-mates of suicides. Though not as deliciously nasty as the Scream films, Dead Man's Curve delivers a respectable quota of drive-in shocks. West End: Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Trocadero

THE EEL (18)

Director: Sohei Imamura

Starring: Koji Yakusho

Imamura's first film for over 10 years is as slippery as they come. One moment we're watching a taciturn office clerk (Koji Yakusho) carving up his wife, the next we've slithered forward 10 years and he's opening a barber's shop in a remote community. It's often difficult to get a grip on the film's stylistic shifts, but Imamura's determined avoidance of the obvious does him credit. West End: Curzon Soho


Director: King Vidor

Starring: Gary Cooper, Raymond Massey, Patricia Neal

Vidor's monstrously overdesigned melodrama features a miscast Cooper as an architect who takes on Massey's evil corporate boss. Adapted from Ayn Rand's novel, it uses Expressionistic camerawork and cod-Freudian symbolism to construct a bizarre moral message: that we should celebrate the young entrepreneur as a Nietzschean superman. Albert Speer for President, anyone? West End: Curzon Soho


Director: Bille August

Starring: Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman, Geoffrey Rush

Bille August turns Victor Hugo's enormous novel into an enormous film, that's as traditional as literary adaptations come these days. It's earnest and almost humourless - those who like a touch of camp to their costume dramas will have to content themselves with a cameo by Nursie from Blackadder as Neeson's gurning housekeeper. West End: Odeon West End, UCI Whiteleys

RONIN (15)

Director: John Frankenheimer

Starring: Jean Reno, Robert De Niro,

Sean Bean

There's an air of knackered resignation about Frankenheimer's latest movie, an espionage thriller about a gang of mercenaries in pursuit of a mysterious silver suitcase. As the leader of the gang, Robert De Niro does his blank-faced, gristle-chewing act. Sean Bean - as an Andy McNabb type, who uses quaint criminal slang like "swag" - is mercifully dispatched in the second reel. As dull as ditch-water. West End: Barbican Screen, Elephant & Castle Coronet, Hammersmith Virgin, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Leicester Square, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Fulham Road


Director: John Dahl

Starring: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich

The main problem with Dahl's poker-club thriller is that the golden- boy star, Matt Damon, is comprehensively out-acted by almost everyone else: by his co-star, Edward Norton, who brings an authentic shiftiness to the role of card-sharp best mate; and by the monstrously hammy John Malkovich, as the Muscovite Mr Big. West End: Hammersmith Virgin, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, Ritzy Cinema, Screen on Baker Street, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Chelsea, Virgin Haymarket, Warner Village West End

Matthew Sweet