CINEMA / Critic's choice

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La Scorta

Ricky Tognazzi's better than competent thriller about a team of young cops called in to protect a Sicilian judge was a huge box-office hit in Italy, where it struck major chords. The action relies more on implicit threat and Ennio Morricone's pulsing score than shoot-outs, and though there may be a shade too much male bonding for northern European tastes, it feels suitably without illusion and looks suitably grimy.

Short Cuts

After returning from the wilderness with the entertaining but ephemeral The Player, Robert Altman comes up with a film of real substance: a three-hour tragi-comedy about some two dozen blue-collar Los Angelinos, played by a crack cast of some of America's best actors. It's based (very freely) on short stories by Raymond Carver, although Altman is rather more sardonic and unforgiving towards his characters. But he interweaves their stories with great elegance and verve.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

This is the kind of low-key, borderline whimsical drama that looks a breeze but is near impossible to achieve without overdosing on sentiment or patronising its characters, but Lasse Hallstrom has managed it. Johnny Depp is the eponymous misfit, Leonardo DiCaprio excellent as his mentally disabled brother. It has a tough core: it's a feel-good movie that you could cut your fingers on, if you didn't handle it with care.

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