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The Independent Culture
The Eel (18)

Artificial Eye, rental HHH

Shohei Imamura's Cannes 1997 Palme d'Or winner sees a timid office clerk called Takura (Koji Yakusho) killing his wife after he finds her in bed with another man. Eight years on, and a paroled Takura buys a barber shop in a remote village and sets up home with a pet eel whom he regards as a trusty companion. His reclusive calm is disrupted by a suicidal young woman, and then by an old cellmate who exposes his murderous past. The ludicrously violent climax serves only to disrupt the quiet reflection and beauty of the rest of the picture.

The Gingerbread Man (15)

Polygram, retail HH

Another efficient thriller from the John Grisham stockpile. Robert Altman extracts a plausible Southern drawl from Kenneth Branagh who plays an arrogant attorney celebrating a courtroom victory. Having seduced a young waitress (Embeth Davidtz) after the party, he finds himself drawn into her problems as she requests protection from her deranged survivalist father. Though the plot is full of enticing twists, it is difficult to have sympathy with a man who seduces vulnerable women to make himself feel important.

My Name is Joe (18)

Film Four, rental HHHH

In Ken Loach's most recent social drama, Peter Mullan plays Joe, a recovering alcoholic who bears the weight of Glasgow's social problems on his shoulders. In an effort to shake off the guilt of his past, he runs a local football team and helps his friend Liam to stay off smack. But while Joe is patently the good guy, Loach resists painting him as a hero and, thanks to Mullan's searing performance, the rage of his former days bubbles visibly under the surface. There are inspired moments of light-heartedness, too, as well as a romance between Joe and a health visitor that will make your stomach go soft.

Ronin (15)

MGM, rental HH

John Frankenheimer's noisy action thriller is an extravaganza of flying fruit-and-veg stalls, pedestrians leaping out of the way of hurtling cars and chain-smoking baddies indulging themselves in haphazard shoot-outs. An imperturbable Robert De Niro, a snarling Sean Bean and a, well, French Jean Reno are in hot pursuit of a suitcase containing something top secret. Unfortunately, after the seventh car chase you don't care what's in it, though Frankenheimer somehow manages to build to a climactic finale with a chase around the Parisian tunnel system. Pain- killers are compulsory.