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The Independent Culture
Jackie Brown (18)

Buena Vista, retail HHHHH

Once again, Quentin Tarantino successfully resuscitates the careers of those previously consigned to the has-been bucket as Pam Grier, star of the Seventies Blaxploitation flicks, becomes the centrepiece of this exceptional gangster thriller. Devotees of the Tarantino splatter-fest will be disappointed since this is the director's most human effort to date. As opposed to the usual opulent gangster-inhabited backdrops, the film is set in shopping malls, dingy apartments and grubby housing projects, and is shot with a murky retro palette of browns and greens. While the action remains gripping, most of the violence occurs off-screen, and the characters are presented with personalities, rather than the usual line- up of caricatures. Brilliant.

The X-Files: The Movie (15)

Fox Pathe, rental HHH

Rob Bowman's film revels in in-jokes and long-running tensions that require more than a passing acquaintance with the cult TV series to comprehend. But it also displays a capacity to send-up its own genre, most noticeably when Mulder pees against a billboard poster of the Hollywood blockbuster Independence Day. The plot offers few surprises, though it contains enough government cover-ups, little green men and underground laboratories to meet the undemanding needs of X-philes. Attempts to add to the Mulder-Scully sexual frisson are largely wasted - the fact that Scully contracts a deadly virus when faced with the prospect of kissing Mulder should put an end to any fantasies that either was harbouring.

Metroland (18)

Fox Pathe, rental HH

As Chris (Christian Bale) languishes in one of London's leafy suburbs with his wife (Emily Watson), his old chum Tony is busy trotting aimlessly across the globe. Or so he thinks. Philip Saville's morality tale compares the virtues of the suburban family against the anarchic impulses of youth as it moves between Chris's heady days in Paris and his sober days in London 10 years on. Set in the Sixties and Seventies, it mercifully resists camping up the age of flares out of all proportion, though this is one of its few saving graces. Bale and Watson make the best of a feeble script, but it remains hard to fathom why anyone thought this banal tale, penned by Julian Barnes in 1980, would make a successful translation to celluloid.

Lawn Dogs (15)

FilmFour, retail HHHH

John Duigan's charming examination of sleazy suburbia showcases the brilliantly bolshy talents of 11-year-old Mischa Barton. She plays a precocious young girl, Devon - the offspring of pretentious middle-class parents - who befriends Trent (Sam Rockwell), a local lawnmower man. The underlying tension in their relationship is delicately handled and appears touching next to the depraved conduct of her family. Her mother is having a fling with a local lad, Brett - who, in turn, tries to molest Devon. The textures of Trent's ramshackle caravan and Devon's manicured abode are contrasted with some sharp photography, but it is the child's withering one-liners that make this one of the most exceptional films of last year.

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