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The Independent Culture
Pi (15)

A neurotic, reclusive mathematical genius (Sean Gullette) tries to crack the numerical code that allegedly underlies the mysteries of the universe, explaining everything from stock market fluctuations to ancient sacred texts. His obsession soon becomes all-consuming, and eventually, life- threatening. Writer-director Darren Aronofsky (who won a prize at Sundance last year for this first effort) has an attention-getting flair for phantasmagoria (David Lynch's classic - and far superior - Eraserhead is an oft-cited reference point). The more inspired moments in this black-and-white techno- thriller pull off the not inconsiderable task of making mathematics seem seductive. But more often than not, Pi suffers from slack, literal-minded writing, unbearably over-pitched acting, and flashy photography that incessantly calls attention to itself. Unfortunately solemn and single-mindedly lurid, it comes off ultimately as a stunt, a brazen calling card by a film-school upstart - and on those terms, it succeeds well enough.

Enemy of the State (15)

Directed by Tony Scott from a patchy but engagingly busy script by David Marconi, this better-than-average potboiler certainly covers its bases. It shrewdly zeroes in on au courant, Truman Show surveillance fantasies, pays homage to the definitive wiretap-paranoia picture The Conversation by casting Gene Hackman as a reclusive gadget-freak, and goes through the foolproof Fugitive motions with the help of Will Smith, whose box- office record indicates he may well be the next Harrison Ford. Smith plays a hotshot DC lawyer whose life promptly falls apart when an old college friend slips him a McGuffin while being pursued to his death by mysterious men in suits. The film gathers momentum more slowly than you'd expect, and finally seems a little shapeless, but that somehow works to its advantage: it feels twistier and more unpredictable than it actually is. Scott gets a good deal of mileage from the sped-up, spliced-in surveillance footage, and the aerial satellite shots lend an extra charge to the rooftop action, though someone should really tell him that shooting at a 45-degree angle does nothing besides give the audience a stiff neck.

DENNIS LIM

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