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The General (15)

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JOHN BOORMAN'S biopic is a romanticised version of the true-life story of Martin Cahill, the Dublin criminal who ran rings round the police and charmed Ireland with his misadventures in the Eighties and early Nineties. As Boorman tells it, Cahill was a product of the post-war housing estates, channelling his charisma and intelligence into staying one step ahead of the society he felt had abandoned him. This amounts largely to petty theft and burglary, until the prospect of a long jail sentence makes Cahill face up to securing the future of his large family. So he pulls off a multi-million-pound heist. Engineering an ingenious escape from imprisonment, Cahill lets his ambition get the better of him and suddenly he finds himself in a vice comprising the IRA and the police inspector on his case (an excellent Jon Voight).

The key to Boorman's success is the degree to which he plays up Cahill's myth. He doesn't exactly debunk him; Cahill's uproarious courtroom appearances and his preference for hanging out at the police station whenever he needs an alibi are too much fun. Rather, the washed-out monochrome of the film reflects the man's murky, bolder-than-life appeal. With the help of Brendan Gleeson's performance, menacing and gleeful by turn, it doesn't take us long to realise that Cahill is as ruthless as he is cheeky. One minute, he's sporting a daft disguise in court, the next, Boorman is at pains to make clear, he's nailing a suspected informer to a snooker table. An enjoyable, vigorous update of the Robin Hood fable, with the blarney thankfully kept under control.

The Wedding Singer (12)

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JUST WHEN Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler), wannabe rock star, has come to terms with his eponymous lot, his flaky bride stands him up at the altar. Not even the weekly opportunity of belting out (this being 1985) the finest that Culture Club and Kajagoogoo have to offer brings much consolation. It's up to Julia (Drew Barrymore), a waitress, to catch Robbie's eye and realise that maybe her yuppy trash beau isn't quite the ideal husband-to-be that she thinks he is.

Given that the Eighties tend to be portrayed as the decade ethics forgot, Frank Coraci's amiable comedy is at the very least remarkable for making it look so cosy. The likeable performances drive a standard boy-meets- girl plot, but it's the shameless indulgence of the era's music (Huey Lewis, Hall and Oates, The Cars) and its fashions (bandannas, white leather gloves) that stick in your mind. Good singalong fun.

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