(15) HH

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Demi Moore

There's a mangled sensibility running through GI Jane; it's how the women's movement might have turned out if the suffragettes had been commandeered by Emma Peel. You can go with the picture in good faith up to a point. Then you start to suspect that it was written by a sixth-form debating team whose knowledge of feminism begins and ends with the first Spice Girls album.

In one scene, the camera catches sight of a news broadcast about Jordan O'Neil, played by Demi Moore, who has made the headlines by being the first woman permitted to try out for the notoriously demanding Navy SEALs unit. The newscaster starts to introduce a studio guest who will offer a feminist slant on the story. Then, suddenly, the camera cuts away - a clear indication of the writers' concern that such a perspective would unravel the entire fabric of the film.

Ridley Scott has had immense success before with another film in which women gained power and respect only once they had appropriated traditional male behaviour. In Thelma and Louise, the title characters were rewarded for their efforts with a suicide scene which might have been a last-ditch attempt at sour realism if it hadn't been romanticised into oblivion. In GI Jane, Jordan O'Neil survives, technically, but it's hard not to see her victory as a superficial achievement which earns her the classification of Honorary Man.

GI Jane is a politically immature work, but it's a surprise to find that it doesn't even function on a dramatic level. It has a promising opening, introducing us to the senator (Anne Bancroft) whose fight for sexual equality leads to Jordan being accepted into the SEALs. When it is discovered later that the senator has been manipulating Jordan's fate for the advancement of her own career, she is quickly jettisoned from the film as a gender traitor. But I wanted to know more about her, and about the benign officer, played by Lucinda Jenney, who is used as a pawn in a smear campaign against Jordan.

The film is so locked into its deadening grind of torture and sadism that it doesn't have time for these characters. Even within this narrow framework, there are opportunities for comedy that go unnoticed. Scott can't see that some sparkling comic distance would make the film bearable for those viewers who don't get a kick out of seeing how many blows to the head Demi Moore can take without losing consciousness.


(18) HHHH

Director: Kevin Smith

Starring: Ben Affleck

Following the disastrous Mallrats (which only earned a video release in this country), the writer-director Kevin Smith, inspiration for a million independent film-makers, returns to what he does best: the ragged shoestring- budget comedy featuring a cast of young male anal-retentives. Though there are references to characters from Smith's debut Clerks (Silent Bob and Jay also appear here), the anti-hero this time out is Holden (Ben Affleck), a comic-book creator who falls for Amy (Joey Lauren Adams) only to discover that she's a lesbian - a small glitch that doesn't deter him. As always, Smith's writing is as salty as it is hilarious, but now there's a pleasantly knowing, mature undercurrent that suggests he is genuinely progressing.


(15) HHH

Director: Henry Jaglom

Earlier films by Henry Jaglom earned the American writer-director comparisons with Woody Allen, and it's easy to see similarities in the loose, gently comic feel of their movies. But with this would-be scathing portrait of theatrical life in New York, he proves less adept at satire than characterisation, with the result that much of the comedy feels half-baked.


(15) HH

Director: John Badham

Starring: Jason Patric

Lame romantic thriller from the dependably dull John Badham, with Jason Patric as an art forger who falls in love with an art historian (Irene Jacob), but must keep his trade hidden from her.


(18) HH

Director: Ringo Lam

Another action movie from Ringo Lam, released to ride the coat-tails of last week's Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Maximum Risk, which Lam also directed.


(12) HH

Director: Jonathan Lynn

Dismal comedy from Yes Minister's Jonathan Lynn. Michael Richards (Kramer in Seinfeld) plays an actor who pretends to be lawyer to cover for his best friend who's incapacitated after his stag party.