VIDEO REVIEWS

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The Independent Culture
Absolute Power (15) Columbia, retail, pounds 13.99 HHH

Clint Eastwood plays Luther, a master jewel thief with a passion for art. We first see him copying an El Greco in a gallery and returning home to a house crammed with paintings. The narrative gets to the point as he rummages through the home of a Washington fat cat. There he witnesses the murder of a woman by the philandering US President (Gene Hackman). Clint must decide whether to run for the hills or risk death and expose the corrupt forces of democracy, while patching things up with his estranged daughter. Despite a weak denouement, this is a compelling and compassionate film, mostly because of strong support from Scott Glenn, Judy Davis and the ever solid Ed Harris.

Lost Highway (18) Polygram, retail, pounds 15.99 HHHH

This bewitching movie straddles pornography, horror and classic film noir, though its story remains utterly intangible. Fred and Renee Madison (Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette) find a videotape containing footage of their house. A second tape arrives which watches the couple as they sleep and a close-up third observes Renee's murder. Cut to Death Row where a dazed Fred languishes, terrorised by hallucinations. In the morning, the wardens check on him to find that he has been replaced by Peter, and so begins a seemingly different story. With all its Lynchian imprints - pregnant silences, scorching colours and bruised sexuality - Lost Highway keeps you guessing for hours after it's over.

The Man in the Iron Mask (12) MGM, rental HHH

Flouncy shirts, big weapons and exclamations of "merde" and "mon dieu" abound in Randall Wallace's swashbuckler which sees Phillipe, the incarcerated twin of King Louis XIV of France, liberated by three Musketeers, Aramis (Jeremy Irons), Athos (John Malkovich) and Porthos (Gerard Depardieu). Their plan is to swap the bad king for the good king, thereby saving the citizens of Paris from starvation and, they hope, revolution. The King is played with suitable sleaziness by Leonardo DiCaprio, Irons's Aramis is full of melancholy compassion while Depardieu gets to fall over and break wind between every line. This is a delightfully mindless rendering of Dumas's rather mindless novel.

Volcano (12) Fox Pathe, retail, pounds 12.99 HH

Mick Jackson's disaster flick sees Tommy Lee Jones as chief lava deflector with Anne Heche as the scientific interest. As lava spews from the city's nether regions LA is made to pay big-time for its egotism while events are documented through the eyes of those prophets of doom, the media. What's more, this apocalyptic catastrophe seemingly brings about racial harmony. "Look at their faces! They all look the same," cries a dewy- eyed child as rain delivers them from geological armageddon. But despite the film's ludicrous moralising and inconsistencies, Heche and Jones give their all, while the action sequences provide immense entertainment.

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