Brief Encounters



How's this for Russian roulette? Instead of one bullet in six chambers, one empty chamber and five bullets. How's this for luck? Holocaust survivor Sam (Max von Sydow) has never lost at the game. He presides over a Spanish casino where he keeps thousands of photo portraits on file. Who are these faces? "Captives," men and women whose luck ran out. Somehow, by mysterious process, Sam now possesses all their aggregate luck. His former prot駩, Federico, hopes to defeat Sam by means of airplane-crash survivor Tomᳬ who's still hung up on his former girlfriend. Then there's a scarred cop, Sara, in pursuit of them all. A stylishly opaque parable of a movie, Intacto features several bizarre contests between those with "the gift" of luck—one involving a giant green bug! The film proceeds by dream logic, where Tom᳠is the only guy who wants to wake up. It's a tense but absurd, enjoyable Euro-muddle delivered in three languages. (R) BRIAN MILLER


Metro, Uptown

For massively abridged family entertainment, you could do much worse than Douglas McGrath's cheerful adaptation of Dickens' vast, character-teeming novel. British hunk Charlie Hunnam plays the hero who, though he stands out from 19th-century gloom with golden-locked virtue, protests, "I am not an angel." Well, he's close as he rescues crippled Smike (Billy Elliot's Jamie Bell), defends his mother and sister, battles his evil uncle (Christopher Plummer), and wins the girl. As usual in Dickens, the villains are far more colorful than the virtuous types. Jim Broadbent hams it up mightily as the cruel orphanage master Squeers, but Juliet Stevenson goes him one better as Mrs. Squeers, making pure evil pure delight. Alan Cumming, Timothy Spall, and Nathan Lane have less to do in supporting roles, but all the performers give the impression that McGrath (Emma) runs a happy set. Accordingly, Nickleby is a happy movie, although one whose radical truncation does result in some jarring leaps. (PG) B.R.M.


Varsity, Fri., Jan. 3-Thurs., Jan. 9

It's hip. It's fast. It's boring. The premise: Six former anarchists are reunited 12 years after disbanding because an old bomb of theirs has blown up in Berlin; now they have to cover up the evidence. The twist: Many of these aging radicals are now the bourgeois, capitalist pigs they hated. They own Benzes, direct ad firms, love babies, and don't want to do anything reminiscent of their old selves (much less to go to jail). The review: While the shift in values from rebellious youth to IKEA-secure 30-dom is interesting and relatable, the six feel more like pat generational clich鳠than complex, evolving individuals. That's unfortunate, because Fire touts itself as an ensemble piece yet comes off as an action movie that happens to have some actors in it. Full of exciting looting, jail breaks, and cop chases, the film hones its plot at the expense of blunting its characters to dull types. (R) SEAN P. RILEY

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