If it's effects you're after, you'd do far better to invest in A Chinese Ghost Story (15), Columbia/TriStar, 10 Feb, pounds 12.99, a fantastic and bizarrely beautiful thriller from Hong Kong. Made by martial arts director Ching Siu-Tung, it follows the quasi-mythical adventures of a wandering tax collector who spends the night in a haunted temple, falls in love with a ghost and comes face to face with hell itself. The fairytale is lent an unusual edge by supernatural goings on, but for all the flying heads, this is a gentle movie, sporting a sly humour - best evidenced in a sublimely silly rap song delivered by a Taoist priest.
Carl Franklin's Devil in a Blue Dress (15), Columbia/ TriStar, 10 Feb, pounds 12.99, also shuffles generic conventions, introducing a black detective into the familiar demi-monde of film noir. A slightly too-dapper Denzel Washington plays "Easy" Rawlins, a private eye paid to trace a missing woman, who gets caught in a web of corrupt politics and murder. By being lured into this world by a femme fatale, Rawlins is following a route already worn down by the footprints of hapless gumshoes, but Franklin enriches convention with a racial twist. Life is never smooth for the private dick, but it's certainly less easy for "Easy", abused, as he is, by racist whites, from police to kids. The film can feel a little listless, but it's certainly worth seeing, if only for Franklin's loving recreation of the period.
Last, and best, is the stunning Cyclo (18), EV, 10 Feb, pounds 12.99, a film that takes an hallucinatory plunge into the dark heart of Ho Chi Minh City. Its story traces the descent of a pedal taxi boy from innocence to violent corruption. Searching camera work uncovers the violence and beauty of street life in a way that will leave you reeling.
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