Mel Gibson's 'Apocalypto': rape, torture, human sacrifice - and a thumbs-up

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Jon E Drucker, a Jewish lawyer in Los Angeles, doesn't buy the idea that Mel Gibson has atoned for his anti-Semitic rant to a traffic cop who pulled him over for drunk-driving over the summer.

"Maybe I'm just stiff-necked, but I don't think he's really sorry," Mr Drucker says. "I think he just wanted us to see Apocalypto."

Apocalypto isdirector Gibson's latest eccentric foray into independent cinema following the success of The Passion of the Christ two years ago. His new film, which opened on more than 2,500 screens across the US this weekend, is a gore-filled lament for the Mayan civilisation in central America. It features a cast of unknowns and dialogue in the dead Yucatec language.

This was always going to be a hard sell, but the big question is whether the film will be sunk by Gibson's personal foibles. The answer appears, at this stage, to be no. The film features torture, rape, decapitation and human sacrifice, but it is also an effective action movie garnering positive reviewsfrom its preview audiences.

Even Jews in a certain age group are going to find it enticing. "Face it," Mr Drucker said, "the previews ... look pretty darn cool." His tongue-in-cheek suggestionin his Jewish Journal column was that Jews buy a ticket for a different film and then slip into Apocalypto guilt-free.

And having agonised for months about whether to hide or flaunt Gibson, distributor Disney put him on chat shows in the TV ads. So far, nobody is objecting.