FEW PEOPLE, least of all the much-hyped director himself, would judge this tale of a boxing club in an anonymous Midlands town as anything other than a raw but promising first effort. You can see what Meadows is aiming for - a down-at-heel Nineties morality piece - but the film doesn't look very interested in its cliched plot (the futile attempts of local oddball and boxing coach Darcy - Bob Hoskins - to galvanise the town's wasters). As his shorts demonstrated, Meadows excels at detailing the petty dramas of empty afternoons, and the best scenes here recall that. There are moments of dubious lyricism, but what remains are composed, monochrome images of the would-be pugilists training in their gym or taking a pee-break on a trip to Wales. At other times the film suffers when compared to the masterpiece it obviously has in mind, Raging Bull, but when Meadows drifts from the 0rise and fall of Darcy, it's a relief.
The Man In The Iron Mask (12), available to rent tomorrow
ONE OF Hollywood's most revered traditions is its periodical crack at Alexandre Dumas and, in this respect at least, Randall Wallace's regurgitation of the four musketeers' battle against Louis XIV is irreproachably unfaithful. The accents are suitably wayward: Leonardo DiCaprio, as both the nasty king and his imprisoned twin brother, is shamelessly Californian, while Jeremy Irons, Gerard Depardieu, Gabriel Byrne and John Malkovich bring the vocal diversity of a UN peace-keeping force to the musketeers. For the first hour, though, there isn't much swashbuckling to be had. Instead ,the king parties while Paris starves and Wallace labours to emphasise the conflict that divides D'Artagnan, loyal to the king, from Aramis, Porthos and Athos. Things pick up once the musketeers agree to attempt to install the eponymous hero on the throne and your focus shifts from the shamelessly tacky production values to the exploits of Irons and co. Who needs historical accuracy when disposing with it is such good fun?
Best Men (15), available to rent now
WITH HER first feature, Guncrazy, Tamara Davis contributed to the resurrection of one of her stars here, Drew Barrymore, and maybe she felt she could do the same with her odd but effective cast, which includes B-movie veteran Fred Ward and Dean "Superman" Cain.
Once you get over the clot-headed premise of Davis's siege drama - a wedding party gets sucked into a bank heist carried out by one of the guests - there's not a bad film to be found. Where the screenplay does go awry is in making a feature of its derivative nature - it's one thing to endow the ring leader with a knack for Shakespeare, but it tries the patience to then have him witter on about Hamlet to his neglectful father.