The Critics: Cinema: He's the spy-next-door type really, isn't he?

Arlington Road (15) Mark Pellington; 117 mins Waking Ned (PG) Kirk Jones; 91 mins A Night at the Roxbury (15) John Fortenberry; 82 mins Seul Contre Tous (18) Gaspar Noe; 93 mins Southpaw (15) Liam McGrath; 77 mins

In Arlington Road, Jeff Bridges plays a history professor who runs a course in the theory of anti-government extremism. He has a reason for this. His wife, an FBI agent, was killed by a family of rednecks whom her superiors mistakenly thought were involved in some kind of arms scam. In class, Bridges rants about being hoodwinked by an America at war with itself, an America smarting from the Oklahoma bombing and ready to accept any scapegoat, any lousy mitigation, any media-fed fairytale so long as it is plumbed of darkness. He is brimful with conspiracy theories, all of which sound veritable and sane. At night he comforts his young son, sleeps with his ordinary girlfriend (the marvellous Hope Davis, wasted) and is snug with his thwarted, hidden neuroses.

His son befriends a neighbour's son. The usually misanthropic Bridges gets to know the child's seemingly unremarkable parents - played by Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack - and for a while all is well, jolly even. Then Bridges begins to feel suspicious about Robbins. Why has he changed his name? Why does he deny the place of his education? We wonder if it is in fact Bridges who is unstable and unreconciled and dismantled.

Arlington Road could have triumphed. Like Hitchcock's Rear Window, its world is one of imagining and stealth and scabs. Like a hefty-limbed James Stewart, Bridges withers as he rustles the chintz. But instead, the film is resolutely obvious. How could Robbins be anything other than dodgy when he wears bobbly jumpers and is forever achieving at the barbecue? And Cusack, her lip-gloss an untrustworthy shade of candy-floss, is plain barmy.

Still, it stars Bridges, who is the only actor in Hollywood who can get away with having long hair. There is nothing considered about the way he wears his thatch, and it complements his great line in panic: Bridges cries out like a man crawling from the ruins of himself, smattered with nearly-grey tendrils, the muscles of his cheeks white under a privileged tan.

Waking Ned is set in an Irish village called Tully More, where an ageing trio - Ian Bannen, his wife Fionnula Flanagan, and friend David Kelly - are lottery-obsessed. Bannen discovers that one of Tully More's 52 inhabitants has just bagged the jackpot of six million pounds and hosts a chicken supper in order to ferret out the winner. They all drink whisky and gossip and sing, but none of his guests looks particularly luck-stunned. Bannen and Flanagan go to bed grumbling, their dreams of a proxy fortune thwarted.

Later, they discover that the winning ticket belongs to their old friend Ned Devine, who died in the blithe moments after his winning numbers were announced. Bannen and Kelly steal the ticket, but one of them must pose as Ned for the convivial man from the Lotto in order to get at the money. First they must persuade the village to comply with the deception.

Waking Ned was actually shot on the Isle of Man because the location managers "couldn't find the Ireland they were looking for in Ireland". This is because Ned's Ireland is an Ireland of the imagination, a sunny tangle of grass-tips and soft human laughs and pints of bitter that look yielding and fungal. Providing you can accept this cliche, Waking Ned is full of goodwill rather than sentiment, and you might not cringe when the villagers gaze out to sea feeling wholesome and sheltered from the passions of the huge Atlantic. If not, the sub-Riverdance music, puny love-interest (James Nesbitt, playing a smelly pig-farmer, and Susan Lynch, his peripatetic squeeze) and affability will render you thoroughly inflexible.

A Night at the Roxbury is a repulsive film. It stars Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan who are apparently a big giggle on the American comedy showcase Saturday Night Live, which is hardly flattery, because nobody has been funny on that show since 1975 (Chevy Chase, and even he wasn't much cop). Ferrell and Kattan play the mollycoddled Butabi Brothers, who live in Beverly Hills and work at their father's artifical-flower store. They are dense beyond endurance, and dream all day of the Roxbury - a Studio 54-type club -which has the good sense never to let them in. The wail, the plea from the pair might have been the same one voiced by Woody Allen in Play It Again Sam, which opens with Allen on the bed asking his alter ego Humphrey Bogart, "Why can't I be cool?" But the Butabi brothers haven't the nous to recognise that they are not cool, and the film-makers fail to recognise their creations as nothing but grim and shiftless in their foolish outfits, their attempts at excess, their nebbish dancing, and their ghastly deflowering, courtesy of two vacuum-packed prostitutes.

Seul Contre Tous (I Stand Alone) is a film by Gaspar Noe. You are unlikely to forget this since his credit (with a drum-roll) takes up the whole screen at the start of the film, and he keeps reminding us of his jealous presence by barking printed captions at us - at one point challenging us to "leave the cinema in the next 15 seconds."

Philippe Nahon plays a middle-aged butcher who takes up with a bar-owner (Frankye Pain) after a stretch in prison. The couple move from Eighties Paris to the suburbs where Nahon punches Pain's unborn baby to death, and then scurries back to Paris, to hide and gloat. Nahon has 300 francs left, and spends it on digs with cottage-cheese wallpaper, and warm wine in corrugated cafes, and ruminates about "life" being "a tunnel". Noe's favourite words are "useless", "alone" and "rubbish"; so Nahon is frequently "alone" with his "flesh" and "useless, croaking in silence". This goes on and on. This is an opportunistic, boringly nihilistic film that expects us to be amazed at Noe's recognition and celebration of our depravity.

Southpaw is a documentary about the 22-year-old amateur light welterweight Francis Barrett. He comes from a community of travellers in Galway, whose coach, a barber called Chick Gillen, funded the local boxing club that brought Francis to success. Barrett (sunny, keen) is utterly winning, and the film features some glorious exchanges, usually in waterlogged phone boxes. Chick to Frankie: "Go for his body Frankie, go with the right and keep with the right, kill him with the right, hit him often with the right hand. And Frankie, don't injure anybody, all right?"

Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape