Video Round-Up

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The Independent Culture
The Spanish Prisoner (PG) to rent

Financial whizz Joe Ross (Campbell Scott) has developed a market-busting formula for his company but does anyone appreciate his talents? Only, it seems, a quirky personal assistant (Rebecca Pidgeon) and a no-nonsense jet setter, Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin), Joe meets by chance.

David Mamet directs his own screenplay which means the metaphysical undertones of the switch-back plot are indulged to the full. The end result is an OK, sub-Usual Suspects thriller is needlessly complicated by verbose exchanges.

That said, Martin and Pidgeon's performances, both exuding ambiguous menace, ignite the occasional spark of tension.

Antz (PG)

to rent

Pitched as kids entertainment with enough to keep the over-14s awake, Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson's computer-animated feature doesn't quite succeed with either intention. "Z" is a worker ant, appealingly voiced by Woody Allen, who refuses to submit to the will of the commune either in his forbidden love for Princess Bala (Sharon Stone) or his belief in the mythical Insectopia. Z's real problem is his anonymity, and the same failing blights the animation itself. Z and his co-workers are so faithfully rendered, physiologically, you can barely tell them apart. (A Bug's Life by contrast substituted cute for accurate). Still, the prevailing theme of individuality vs conformity is given an engaging spin as Allen gets to reprise his customary neurotic kvetching ("I was the middle child in a family of five million"). Also pleasing are the brown and black hues of his subterranean home: a neat literal touch and a contributory factor, no doubt, in Z's existential crisis. A pity then that, a couple of bravura sequences apart, the film's mature wit is sidelined by its fatuous plot.

A Perfect Murder (18)

to rent

This loose reworking of Dial M For Murder has Michael Douglas as an amoral tycoon (is he anything else these days?) who offers Viggo Mortensen, the lover of his waspish wife Gwyneth Paltrow, $500,000 to kill her, in order that he can claim her inheritance. Though Douglas is the obvious villain, director Andrew Davis's strength is to remain poker-faced about Mortensen's motivations. His character seems to be a conflation of two from Hitchcock's original. It's a liberty but worth it, particularly if you can put up with Paltrow's dim heroine. As Davis's previous film, The Fugitive, there's something to chew on beneath the blockbuster sheen.