After Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, Guy Ritchie's latest gangster flick aims higher. aspiring to be a thinking-man's puzzle— piece about the con of all cons. But its central chess-game conceit is over- convoluted and infuriating. finally sliding into risible silliness in the last 20 minutes.

Seven years after taking the fall for casino-owning criminal Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta). Jake Green (Jason Statham) returns to wreak his revenge. by nixing Macha's career-making coke deal with elusive underworld kingpin Sam Gold. Helping him are two con men he's never met the enigmatic Zach (Vincent Pastore) and his inscrutable partner Avi (Andre Benjamin) who demand that Jake does everything they say. without question. The con is on. but who is playing who?

‘I like the idea.‘ Ritchie has said. ‘that the players could all be different pieces on a chess board.‘ This is the film's strength and its fatal weakness. The low-life characters are merely ‘types'. their humanity and emotions subjugated to their role as pawns in Ritchie's clever mind-games. The fact that Ritchie Spent three years writing the script may account for it being so ridiculously overwrought. It does not explain why. after such a long gestation, Ritchie still had not resolved the crippling structural and credibility problems.

Pretentious philosophical aphorisms are used as inter-titles: 'The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look.‘ Revolver aSpires to be Sun Tzu's The Art of War. but ends up being more like Guy Ritchie's The Art of Wank. (Nigel Floyd)

I General release from Thu 22 Sep.


After winning an Oscar for Spirited Away. Hayao Miyazaki swaps the familiar Studio Ghibli spirit-world in favour of the jolly-hockey-sticks

children's book Howl 's Movrng Castle. The reSult is a strange hybrid that starts out as a cheery kids' adventure which changes direction to depict the hell of a dystopian futureworld overtaken by war. Despite Miya/aki's undoubted gifts for stOry. character and cute animation, the diverse Cultural agendas jar badly.

Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer) is a saucer-eyed. short-skirted teenager

who is turned into an old woman (Jean

Simmons) by a malicious local Witch. Sophie attempts to find safety in the moving castle of an eccentric boy wizard. Howl (Christian Bale). whom she believes can restore her to human form. But as Howl's mobile home strides about the countryside on telesc0pic legs. SOphie becomes enchanted by the castle's other inhabitants. in particular a demonic fire spirit called CaICifer (Billy Crystal). who strikes a dangerous deal With Sophie. Miyazaki slavisth replicates the action of the book for the first half of the film. right down to the design on Howl's doorbell. then suddenly ditches Wynne Jones‘ plot entirely and leans back towards the heaw-handed ecological themes of his earliest films. But the shift doesn't work. and the chaotic last half-hour of Howl's Movrng Cast/e has little of the simple poetry of Spirited Aways train-ride finale. With the Ghibli back catalogue now fuelling a growing DVD market worIdWide. it's a shame that despite such potential for cultural crossover. East meets West so awkwardly here. (Eddie Harrison) I GET. Glasgow from Fri 23 Sep.


James Reston. the US Scottish political journalist and apologist for Nixon and Kissinger's foreign policy once pointed out that ‘all politics are based on the indifference of the majority'. The government-set thriller King '3 Game sets out to prove Just how mendacious that minority can be. Films that focus on the lives of )Ournalists and politicmns that actually work can be counted on one hand. and Nikola) Arcel's film based on the best-selling novel by Niels Krause~ Kiaer (a former spin doctor for the Danish Conservatives) makes its Objections clear Without ever guite reaching the front bench.

When young ambitious Journalist and son of a former government minister Ulrik Torp (Anders W Berthelsen) is assigned the parliamentary beat for his newspaper he uncovers a cynical plot involving the country's incumbent prime minister. When no-one takes notice of his conspiracy theories, Ulrik throws his lot in Willi disgruntled fellow


SHOCK OF THE NEW Tony McKibbin meets ILYA KHRZHANOVSKY, the new enfant terrible of Russian cinema.

With a handful of walkouts and at least one person throwing up after

the film’s screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival, the 30-year-old Russian director Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s debut feature 4 (Chetyre) is in the dishonourable tradition of transgressive cinema.

Detailing the lives of various characters in contemporary Russian, the film explores the continuing collapse of Russia as madness encroaches. But this is far from a meretricious exercise in confrontation. Khrzhanovsky’s extreme outing, he believes, reflects an extreme predicament. ‘The changes in Eastern Europe are more dramatic than in the West. The Russian has had to absorb far more shocks than the Westerner’, and so he wants his film to capture the harsh shocks that have their correlative in Russian life. Nowhere more so than in the opening scene where, from out of nowhere, four huge iron legs stomp on the ground as four dogs run away.

Sound proves central to the effect, and the director goes to great lengths to build his soundtrack. In one scene where the old ladies of a small village make dolls from chewed bread, Khrzhanovsky ‘spent four days recording the sound of the bread being spat into the bowl’. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in authenticity as well. ‘Most of the sound was recorded on location; including all the dialogue.’

Khrzhanovsky is also equally respectful of the image of cinema as art. He admits to Rembrandt and Goya being major influences. The former is very much present in the dark-toned lighting of the film, and Goya in

its visceral imagery.

Another key element proved to be the director’s decision to use non- professionals. ‘At the beginning I honestly looked for actors - going through hundreds of auditions. But I would never get the performance I was looking for. I wanted people who could see what was at stake. I chose strippers to play the roles of Marina and her sisters. If an actor gives a bad performance, he loses his chance to film. If the stripper gives a bad performance, if she fails to convince her client she’s for real, she could get beaten up.’ There have been many claims made from Bresson to Loach for using non-professionals, but Khrzhanovsky’s is surely the most provocative. The performances are nothing if not vivid, and complement perfectly sound and image in this stunning meditation

on Russian life.

I 4 (Chetyre) is at Fl/mhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 23- Thu 29 Sep only. See

review, page 43.

hack and walking heart attack. l~lenik Moll (Nicholas Bro). lll(?£lll\.'.’llll(} the power elite play dirty to win the election.

Pitched somewhere between DaVid Drury's 19853 understated British politico- thriller Defence of the Realm and the Andrew DaVis "IV adaptation of Tory popiniay Michael Dohhs' House of Games books. this solidly watchable slab of insider histrionics and strained morality is rarely surprising, nor I)éll’il(itlléll’|\ original. While the twrsts and turns are too neat

(not to say signposted fien‘. .lli.‘,.. three miles a‘.'.'a\ .. the il‘.'.!\'.'.iilil monologues signaizng tlte 'i‘vait‘ character's iedeinpt-en I". 'iis :seau‘" tor 'ieaI truth are tniitir, eriiiéat'.i:;:;.".:. Diearilt. directed. but ‘.-;‘:I’, .'.el art's-t Arcel is clearly ‘.'.’()II\il‘.(I te thr- ten‘i‘ .ifv of. among others. I’akuia's rt f'w President's (tie/i. 'iis l‘iilltrl‘lJ‘f seems to have treen let: (xx " 2'»- I)ani:;h di‘i/xie. -I’atii Dana

I OF] (E’asgtri'. ".x'r‘ /" 1" .35 Sty). film/tease. r (I’H‘ld’gl’ ’. t l ' ()(i!.

:‘w: THE LIST41