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LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER -THE CRADLE OF LIFE (12A) EVERY computer geek's fantasy girl is back, complete with pout, plummy accent and a penchant for punching the lights out of big, hairy blokes.

But, lithe and lovely as she is, Angelina Jolie still can't save Lara Croft Tomb Raider -The Cradle Of Life from being a bit of a damp squib.

The action-girl archaeologist is in a risky race to find Pandora's Box before it falls into the hands of a ruthless arms trader who sees it as the ultimate weapon.

Director Jan de Bont handles all the spectacular stuff with technical competence, hurrying us between death-defying stunts and dazzling effects.

But none of that can compensate for a weak script, duff dialogue and poor character development.

This is always going to be the inherent difficulty in a movie based on a computer game, especially when it shows no greater ambition in opening up the story than to offer us a rehash of all the usual comic-strip cliches.

So we have a super-heroine taking on the usual Mr Evil figure (Ciaran Hinds) in a bid to stop yet another diabolical plan to take over the world.

Lara herself is sketchily drawn which leaves me feeling rather sorry for Angelina Jolie, who puts everything into the physical action but has little to work with in the way of character.

She has been given a playmate in this movie -mercenary Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) -with whom to flirt but you couldn't say that they set the screen on fire with sexual chemistry.

In the end we are left with the usual battery of special effects but nothing of substance to fill in the gaps between the brawls.

SWIMMING POOL (15) YOU need to show a little patience with Swimming Pool, an arty thriller that lights a long, slow-burning fuse and then keeps us waiting for the explosion.

Charlotte Rampling stars as Sarah Morton, a successful writer of detective stories who seems to have run into a brick wall of personal and professional frustrations. The problem may be with her publisher John (played with distant coldness and a hint of cruelty by Charles Dance). But this enigmatic movie gives only tantalising hints at what their relationship may be.

He offers the use of his house in France to help her to get away from it all and start her new book.

The change of scenery seems to work until John's young daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) turns up.

There is an inevitable clash between the promiscuous wild child who seems incapable of keeping her clothes on and brings a different man home each night and the frustrated, buttoned-up, middle-aged Englishwoman.

But Julie proves to be the inspiration that sets Sarah writing again, plundering the girl's secret diary. However, this will have violent consequences and make the two women accomplices in crime.

Or will it? Because nothing is quite what it seems in Francois Ozan's intriguing and sometimes infuriating film. You need to see it for yourself to find out where the plot twists are heading.

The best thing about the movie is Charlotte Rampling's controlled but dangerous performance as the writer who seems so restrained and yet reveals glimpses of voracious appetites and wilder passions beneath that cold exterior.

It's stylish and broodingly atmospheric, and explores some interesting ideas about the ways in which writers steal other people's lives. But I had the nagging feeling that there was something a touch pretentious in a movie that promises more than it actually delivers.


DREAM WOMAN... Angelina Jolie is transformed into computer heroine Lara Croft; ON TARGET... Lara shoots into action; AT SEA... Lara takes to the water; LENDING A HAND... tricky task for Lara
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 24, 2003
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