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The Basketball Diaries (18). Jim Carroll is a fine, inflammatory writer but this story of his life does him a gross disservice. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the teenage Carroll, who develops a heroin addiction, gets kicked out of school and home, and must pull his socks up (and the needle out) in order to Make Something of Himself. Most of the picture is plain inept, and some of it is offensive: the tender photography courts homoeroticism while the movie vilifies its gay characters. Ugly in all the wrong ways.

La Haine (15). The controversy which greeted the release of Mathieu Kassovitz's urban thriller in its native France was fitting but misleading. This story of three working-class friends (Said Taghmaoui, Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde, below, l-r) brooding around their Parisian housing estate the morning after a riot has its confrontational moments (Kassovitz has admitted that the film is anti-police), but there's a raw sensitivity about it which the hype didn't accomodate. It also differs substantially from other "street" films like Pixote or Kids, in that its black-and-white images strive for distortion and surrealism, not authenticity. It's a slice of social commentary that wants its audience to comprehend, not suffer.

Heavy (15). James Mangold's pensive small-town drama seems at first to mirror the arch, stilted world of Hal Hartley. But this is darker stuff, suffused with a real sense of loneliness, and a disconcerting honesty about death which recalls Harold and Maude and What's Eating Gilbert Grape? If that sounds about as much fun as licking a cheese-grater, don't be deterred - there's dry humour here too, and a redemptive humanity, and generous performances. Liv Tyler plays Callie, a college drop-out who is hired by Dolly (Shelley Winters) to waitress in a pizza parlour. There, she finds herself open to the hostility of fellow waitress Delores (Deborah Harry), and the affections of Dolly's son, the introverted, overweight cook Victor (Pruitt Taylor Vince). Victor becomes the film's focus, and Mangold's succinct writing is effortlessly served by the astounding Vince, whose performance is a model of hypnotic inertia. The photography and editing also contribute beautifully to the picture's spaced-out feel, with stark repetition employed to convey both daily mundacity and the slog of life after somebody else's death. See also: 'IoS' offer, Going Out, 'Real Life'. Ryan Gilbey

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