BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY
If Ridley Scott’s film didn’t reinvent the Roman epic it certainly revived it and a most welcome contribution to the genre it is. The brooding, powerful Russell Crowe (who was rewarded with an Oscar) comes out of it best as Maximus, the betrayed Roman general, who escapes a death sentence imposed by jealous emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) and finds himself sold into slavery. The film begins with a rousing battle in which general Maximus conquers the Germanic hordes and pretty well ends with an equally rousing fight in the Colosseum featuring gladiator Maximus as he seeks vengeance. To an extent this is simply lusty Boys’ Own adventure stuff, studded with some notable performances, not least from Oliver Reed, who died before the film was completed, as the gladiator owner. Scott may not add anything new to the genre but he does bring to it a fresh approach, his customary visual flair and a good deal of exciting action in and out of the gladiators’ arena.
Pretty Woman ★★★★
It could have been Burt Reynolds and Uma Thurman as the tycoon and his hooker lover (there’s a thought). Thankfully Richard Gere and Julia Roberts got the parts and the rest is history.
Shallow Grave ★★★★★
Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle took his movie bow with this gripping and gruesome black comedy, in which three flatmates (played by Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston and Ewan McGregor) turn nasty over a stash of cash.
9.00-11.05pm Film Four
Aliens get a lot of bad press in Hollywood, but here’s one with a good sense of humour, voiced by Seth Rogen and the brainchild of stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
Rush Hour ★★★★
Hong Kong action superstar Jackie Chan and cocky American comedian Chris Tucker are the unlikely cop buddies dealing with an international kidnapping in this fun and frenetic martial arts action comedy.
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