VIDEO / Getting caught in the rush: John Lyttle reviews the latest releases on rental and sell-through

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The Independent Culture
RUSH (Warner 18 116mins)

Provocatively neutral drugs thriller forgoes genre tropes (car chases, gun play, all-in snorting) to focus on rookie undercover cop Jennifer Jason Leigh's descent into the cocaine netherworld, accompanied by burnt- out colleague and lover Jason Patric. Cue addiction, betrayal, murder. The pleasure- wreathed Seventies are convincingly re-created, and there are sly in-jokes for fans of the alumni of the Betty Ford Clinic: the dealer-villain is played by infamous heroin survivor Greg Allman. Yet the undeniably intelligent final product is less satisfying than its many ambivalent parts. Notable, though, for defying US cinema's 'feel-good' ethos. Released 11 November.

DEFENSELESS (FoxVideo 18 96mins)

Sturdy murder mystery cum courtroom thriller, released on Fox's quality-controlled straight-to-video Movie Premiere label. The ingredients are standard: attorney Barbara Hershey is having an affair with a married client. When he's brutually stabbed to death, moments after they've had a blazing row, she and detective Sam Shepard discover a list of suspects as long as a conga line. The skill comes in the compressed plotting, noir lighting and ripe, extravagant acting. Released 16 November.

CINDERELLA (Disney U 72mins)

Downtrodden lovely is exploited by stepmother and her physiognomically challenged daughters. Cue rescue by a Fairy, a Prince and a colony of cheeky mice. Not the peak of the studio's animated output (watery colour, unexciting songs, wimpy heroine), which won't stop doting parents from dropping this pounds 14.99 purchase into their progeny's bulging Christmas stockings. Available 5 November.

HOOK (Columbia Tristar U 135mins)

Counterfeit Disney on a gigantic budget, likewise bound for a prime location under the Christmas tree despite a laborious scenario requiring middle-aged Peter Panning (Robin Williams) to remember that's he actually Peter Pan, due in Never-Never land to combat Captain Hook for his kidnapped children. The production's sheer scale is lost on video, but then the story itself misplaces what was magical in Barrie's original, substituting special effects and heavy-handed humour. Basically pure Hollywood panto, even when Tinkerbell - Julia Roberts, smiling, smiling, smiling - expands to adult size and receives long-awaited lip service from a bashful Peter. On release. Retail price pounds 13.99.

WAYNE'S WORLD (CIC PG 90mins)

Pop culture pot-pourri; a polite way of stating that all ideas of conventional narrative play second fiddle to the flaky rock, television and movie parodies offered by teen dudes Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey), broadcasting their very own cable TV show from a basement in Aurora, Illinois. The slang has already penetrated the language, as have Garth's musings on the allure of Bugs Bunny in drag, so it's possibly best simply to warn first time consumers about the crass TV-Movie-of-the-Week photography - is this too meant to be a joke? - and the posturing (you couldn't call it acting) of megababe Tia Carrere, wooed away from Wayne by smarmy TV executive Rob Lowe. Released 20 November.

THE LAWNMOWER MAN (First Independent 15 104mins)

Pierce Brosnan tampers with the Forces of Nature by injecting retarded gardener Jeff Fahey with artifical intelligence. A pity there wasn't anything left over for the production team. Need we add that this updated Frankenstein Goes Horribly Wrong - barring the computer-generated trips through alternative realities? Available 18 November.

BASIC INSTINCT (Guild 18 122mins)

Preposterous sex 'n' gore. Michael Douglas is a trigger-happy detective with a coke problem, a Pringle sweater and a bottom like the Hindenberg with a slow leak. Sharon Stone is a bisexual multi-millionairess and cut- price Hitchcock blonde with a Masters Degree in manipulation. Director Paul Verhoeven aims for sophisication and achieves glossy vulgarity, aided and abetted by Joe Eszterhas's trashy script - all consumer durables, demented knifings, kinky sex and plot holes you could drive an ice pick through. Of its type, just about perfection; the video release allows the curious the opportunity to pause and rewind the fabled interrogation scene. On release.

THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (Hollywood Pictures 18 106mins)

Another loony lady - a trend or what? Extended variation on the garish notion that 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned', the woman being Rebecca de Mornay, Nanny from Hell. The target of her hatred is Annabella Sciorra, whose complaints about De Mornay's sleazy gynaecologist husband have resulted in his suicide. It's Fatal Attraction via Mary Poppins, any whisper of tension dissipated by a formulaic, issue-avoiding script and direction so detached it damn near upstages Eric Rohmer. A single electric moment: a ranting Sciorra accuses her husband of being unfaithful with her best friend, unaware that her surprise birthday party guests are next door, hanging on to every screeched syllable. On release.

CAPE FEAR (CIC 18 122mins)

Archetypal stalk 'n' slash grotesquely inflated by director Martin Scorsese's pretensions. Rarely has this much visual imagination been lavished on so misogynist a storyline: psychopathic rapist Robert de Niro leaves prison and wreaks his revenge on lawyer Nick Nolte, wife Jessica Lange and daughter Juliette Lewis. It's scary all right (a screaming victim has part of her face bitten off), not to mention repugnant and dishonest. Eighties splatter at least never pretended to art status, which leavened its occasional offensiveness. Scorsese actually wants shivers and admiration. On release.

PAYOFF (Medusa 15 106mins)

DEVLIN (Medusa 18 106mins)

GUN CRAZY (Medusa 15 90mins)

Three low- to medium-budget thrillers from a company specialising in real video. Not pre-sold cinema transfers, rather punchy independent purchases and cable TV fare aimed at audiences craving thrills, spills, explosions and women who regularly part company with their clothes. Payoff is six-pack viewing par excellence, featuring a hit, a heist, and Keith Carradine. Devlin offers Bryan Brown, generic rebel cop framed for the murders of a politician and his call-girl date: FX recycled very loudly. Gun Crazy is actually a minor find, highlighting a vivid Drew Barrymore as a sexually abused outcast lured into love and bloodshed by weapons-obsessed ex-con James LeGros. Around 100 times more interesting than Basic Instinct. On release.

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