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Director: Kevin Spacey Starring: Matt Dillon (18)

Despite the fact that Albino Alligator hasn't opened yet, you have already seen it. I know it sounds unlikely, but believe me, if you've ever watched or read a David Mamet play, or even wandered the aisles of a bookshop and brushed your sleeve against a copy of one of Mamet's plays, then the film's miniature power struggles, gnawing dialogue and anthropological fascination with macho rituals will have a familiar flavour.

This leaves one pressing question. Why pay money to see Albino Alligator when its themes and characters are already languishing among the bric- a-brac of your memory? Because the actor-turned-director Kevin Spacey does the best thing anyone could do when faced with such a derivative screenplay - he sets up stylish camera angles, gives his actors plenty of room to breathe and generally carries on as though he's the first person ever to make a film about a group of criminals staging an impromptu siege. It doesn't entirely work, but if you can summon up some generosity, you'll find that you're receptive to the film's minor delights.

One of Spacey's most notable achievements is that he's managed to tease out a great Matt Dillon performance, something we haven't seen since Drugstore Cowboy seven years ago. Dillon conveys the usual contradictory blend of vulnerability and blind bravado, but there's real weight and desperation to his portrayal of the jittery leader of a trio of crooks who inadvertently land themselves some hostages when they burst into a basement bar after dark, having just carried out a robbery.

As you might expect, he is accompanied by our old friends The Sensible One and The Psychotic One, while the captives include a barmaid played by Faye Dunaway. Pounding the pavements outside is Joe Mantegna, a Mamet regular, who is forced to play some comic scenes despite being impeded by a distinct absence of funny lines.

And that's about it. Only occasionally does Spacey appear too eager to impress, such as when he makes a flashy cut from a dart to a coffee spoon, so that the former seems to be turning into the latter. Such misjudgements might reinforce your general impression that this is a film where nothing is happening - but with style.


Director: David Lynch Starring: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette (18)

David Lynch has never been a film-maker who seemed comfortable with conventional narratives, as the prosaic fantasies of Dune proved. But in Lost Highway he comes as close as anything he's done since Eraserhead to a cinema of pure sensuality rather than logic. And if it lacks the focus and thrust of Blue Velvet, it still has moments which rank among the most disturbing of his career.

The film's first 40 minutes or so fall into this category, as we observe the apparently embalmed domestic life of a jazz saxophonist (Bill Pullman) and his girlfriend (Patricia Arquette) as they receive mysterious videotapes of the exterior and interior of their home. This long but impeccably restrained section then gives way to a second act in which Pullman is on death row after being found guilty of a vicious murder. But when warders check on him, they find that he's vanished, and the young mechanic Balthazar Getty is in his place.

From here, the film spins wildly out of control, as Getty comes up against the psychopathic Mr Eddy (Robert Loggia, doing a dreary impersonation of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet) and becomes involved with a ruthless femme fatale (Arquette in a second role). But it retains an unnerving, hallucinatory atmosphere, and Lynch's distorted use of colour and sound feels as revolutionary now as ever.


Director: Paul Anderson Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill , Joely Richardson (18)

A science-fiction horror movie which doesn't so much scare you as use eardrum-shattering sound effects to blast you out of your seat. Despite such sensationalist tendencies from Paul Anderson, the British director of Shopping, Event Horizon emerges as an impressive minor Alien, with a crew of astronauts heading for Hell when they respond to distress signals from a missing-presumed- lost spacecraft.


Director: Les Blair Starring: Baby Cele (15)

Les Blair's deftly observed portrait of life in post-apartheid Johannesburg focuses on the efforts of its various characters - losers, chancers and misfits - to eke out a living and hang on to their dignity. Best of all are Clint (Lionel Newton), a would-be dude with a droopy moustache and a gun fetish, and Minnie (Michele Burgers), a prostitute who does sit- ups with a cigarette clamped between her lips. These characters open up gradually, and Blair's improvisational methods allow them to develop in unexpected ways which make the film a low-key but charming surprise.


Director: David Mirkin Starring: Mira Sorvino (12)

A lightweight comedy that makes Clueless look like Dostoevsky, this follows two chums, Romy (Mira Sirvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) who decide to reinvent themselves at their high school reunion, with embarrassing results. Most of the film's scarce appeal comes from its fizzy stars, and the splendidly grouchy Janeane Garofalo, who applies the necessary dosage of venom to the more sickly scenes.


Director: Leslie Greif Starring: Eric Stoltz (18)

Nonsensical, tongue-in-cheek drama about a journalist (played by the ever-inexpressive Eric Stoltz) who becomes embroiled in a murder plot when he meets up with his ex and her Elvis-lookalike boyfriend (James Spader). As bland as it is incomprehensible.


Director: Rene Clement Starring: Alain Delon (PG)

Revival of the brilliant, crisply beautiful 1960 thriller about Ripley (Delon), a young opportunist who entertains thoughts of murder and duplicity during a yachting trip with the friend whom he's supposed to be escorting back home.