The anti-nowhere leads

Cinema: BUTTERFLY KISS Michael Winterbottom (18) DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE John McTiernan (15) SUITE 16 Dominique Deruddere (18)
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The Independent Culture
There are no police in Butterfly Kiss, or, for that matter, any evidence of the most rudimentary moral structure. You would think that was just as well for the unhinged serial killer Eunice (Amanda Plummer, parading an equally unhinged accent), who wanders motorway service stations in the north of England, babbling at sales assistants before spilling their brains on the floor. But Eunice wants to be caught. She is wracked with existential angst - she just keeps on killing, aghast that God will not punish her for her crimes. "He's forgotten me!" she howls. Judging by the bleak world the director Michael Winterbottom shows us, He seems to have washed his hands of everyone north of Wolverhampton.

The movie is peopled by leering sales reps, hysterical shop-girls and lecherous truck drivers engaged in misguided vanity. There is one exception: Miriam (Saskia Reeves), a frumpy, dumpy lass who works in a forecourt shop and catches Eunice off guard by actually taking an interest in her when she starts gibbering. The attraction is instantaneous. Eunice plants a smacker on this bewildered woman-child who has only ever been kissed by three people in her life, and then they're off on the road, stopping at Miriam's house just long enough to have sex and for Eunice to reveal her bruised, scalded body wrapped in padlocked chains.

It's not clear where they're heading, only that the corpses will pile up en route, and you might say the same about the film. There are many emotionally rich moments, all of them between Plummer and Reeves, who work far harder to sustain the poignancy and intensity of their relationship than the writer Frank Cottrell Boyce.And some of Winterbottom's touches, such as the rapid editing, sinister tracking shots and a fitting soundtrack (Patsy Cline, PJ Harvey, the Cranberries), give the film an energy and drive that, once more, we must blame Boyce for skimping on.

The main offender in upsetting the pace, though, is the use of Reeves's straight-to-camera black-and-white inserts which interrupt the action so that we can hear Miriam's thoughts. If a less expressive actress than Reeves had filled the role, these sections might serve as a kind of emotional shorthand to communicate information otherwise lacking, but we can wring everything we need from the rest of her performance. It's rather insulting to Reeves's talents and our intelligence that Winterbottom felt we needed anything more, particularly when it is she and Plummer who raise the picture so far above its Thelma and Louise Go to Hell scenario.

In Die Hard with a Vengeance, New York City is at the mercy of Simon (Jeremy Irons), a German terrorist whose scruples are almost as rotten as his dye job, and there's only one man who can stop him - renegade detective John McClane (Bruce Willis). Trouble is, he's got a hangover. You look at Willis, eyes puffed like Yorkshire puddings, sweat and bad breath all but emanating from the screen, and you think: if he can save America, anyone can.

The first 40 minutes of the movie contain the most giddy and intoxicating action scenes you'll find in any cinema this summer, as Irons uses the old Dirty Harry trick of having Willis bolt all over the city performing tasks that vary between the humiliating and the Krypton Factor-esque in order to save a school from being swallowed by a mushroom cloud. This time Willis gets help (and a sparring partner) from Samuel L Jackson, playing perhaps the first black separatist hero in a mainstream picture, and the partnership is tangy and vigorous. Sadly, macho movies, like the men they entertain, have a reputation for shooting their bolt too soon. Still, we should applaud Die Hard... for its imaginative and exhilarating foreplay.

Which brings us neatly to Suite 16, a torrid tale of sexual obsession which is almost as peculiar as its pedigree. Written by Lise Mayer and Charlie Higson, who are between them responsible for The Young Ones and some of Harry Enfield's more annoying catchphrases; directed by the Belgian Dominique Deruddere, who made the fabulous 1989 Bukowski adaptation Crazy Love; and starring Pete Postlethwaite, who brings class to the part of a wheelchair-bound sourpuss who pays a hustler (Antonie Kamerling) to let him film his sexual adventures. The central theme of a decrepit soul re-living his youth through another body is promising, but gets obscured by pretentious dialogue and Kamerling, who has the looks and body of a porn star as well as, fatally, the acting ability. As Enfield would say: "Oi! Deruddere! NO!"

n On release from Friday

RYAN GILBEY

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