Video round-up

Welcome back to the land where Taranteenies dream... Ryan Gilbey on a thriller under the influence
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The Independent Culture
C M Talkington's tongue-in-cheek thriller Love and a .45 (Trimark, rental) opens terrifically. A bored schoolboy (Dazed and Confused's Wiley Wiggins, who's even more delightful than his name) is working the convenience store night-shift. He's held up by Watty Watts (Gil Bellows), a kindly hood who, unbeknown to the boy, never carries out a robbery with a loaded gun. The lad gets a few life lessons from Watty, and his gun as a souvenir. "Why'd you give me this?" he splutters. "'Cos someone did the same for me once, kid." This deliciously wry beginning suggests that Talkington has a knack for dialogue to rival Hal Hartley, while the corny title smacks of a B-movie pastiche. But don't be fooled, for this particular writer- director has but one influence. Welcome, once again, to Taranteenie-land.

This is a place where love is not only blind, it's bland, and it's always on the run. It's a world where the characters talk like comic books, and find their romances threatened not by ex-lovers and petty jealousies, but the really big things in life - salivating hit-men, for example, who offer violence as casually as a handshake.

It isn't a place to go sniffing for insight or humanity. That's not to say that Love and a .45 is without some glimmering moments. Most of them come from Wiggins's Dazed compadre Rory Cochrane, as a shaven-headed psycho who finds himself on the receiving end of some ugly violence. But the movie is upset by an unforgivably nasty tattoo-parlour torture scene transparently modelled on the ear-slicing episode from Reservoir Dogs. The cameos, from Peter Fonda and Eraserhead himself, Jack Nance, are little more than attempts to score on the cool-o-meter, as is the twangy score from Television man Tom Verlaine. But strip all that away and you're left with something very dull indeed: a film-maker whose Year Zero is True Romance.

There's little joy in most of the month's other straight-to-video releases: the dire Mixed Nuts (20:20, rental), flatly directed by Sleepless in Seattle's Nora Ephron, is just further evidence of Steve Martin's unstoppable decline (just wait until you see Father of the Bride 2). The Birds II (CIC, rental), meanwhile, has nothing in common with Hitchcock's original, bar a ravaged- looking Tippi Hedren who contributes a fleeting cameo and gets her picture on the cover. She's a bit wobbly on the old pins though, just like the film.