New to DVD for the week of January 13, 2006

Capsule Reviews of The Constant Gardener, Red Eye, Saraband , and Transporter 2
By  |  January 18, 2006
2.0 2.0 Stars

THE CONSTANT GARDENER | Universal | John le Carré narrates his novel The Constant Gardener partly from the point of view of a craven and culpable character; Fernando Meirelles does his adaptation from the point of view of a showoff stylist. The former injects irony; the latter reminds us that this director made the overrated Cidade de Deus|City of God. Which is a shame, since the overwrought style obscures some affecting performances. For Ralph Fiennes’s Justin Quayle, the gardener of the title and a British diplomat in Kenya, decency and duty have declined into complacency, but his young wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz), acts as his conscience. She’s been probing into the dealings of pharmaceutical corporations in Africa, with the result that as the film opens, she’s already been murdered. Convulsed by grief and guilt, Quayle seeks justice and takes solace in slick flashbacks. The movie manipulates you into feeling guilty as well; take the $10 you’d spend for a ticket and send it instead to Oxfam. | 129m

RED EYE | DreamWorks | Veteran horror director Wes Craven combines the specter of terrorism and the obnoxious person you’re crammed next to for six hours on a cross-country flight and comes up with a bore. Rachel McAdams is a luminous talent waiting for a breakout role; she won’t find it as Lisa, a workaholic functionary at a swank Miami hotel. Flying back home after attending a funeral, Lisa’s at first charmed by her seat mate (Cillian Murphy, looking disarmingly like documentarian Ken Burns), then shocked when he tells her that her father (Brian Cox, who gets to sleep a lot) will be killed if she doesn’t assist in a plot to assassinate the Head of Homeland Security, who’ll be staying at her hotel. Craven gets some mileage out of the minimal confined setting (a ballpoint pen, a Dr. Phil book), but Murphy proves an unthreatening antagonist and McAdams is burdened by empowerment issues. One to watch on an airplane with the sound off. | 85m

SARABAND | Sony | “I feel contempt for myself,” Johan (Erland Josephson) admits when ex-wife Marianne (Liv Ullmann) asks why he feels such contempt for his son Henrik (Börje Ahlstedt), and that explains why no one seems to have grown up much in Ingmar Bergman’s 30-years-later follow-up to his 1973 Scenes from a Marriage. On an impulse, Marianne goes to visit Johan, whom she hasn’t seen in years, at his summer house and gets embroiled in his relationship with Henrik and Henrik’s daughter, Karin (Julia Dufvenius). Josephson and Ullmann are as edifying as ever here, but humiliated-son-turns-humiliating-father is an unedifying scenario that Bergman has been trying, and failing, to break out of for at least 50 years, and it gets no help here from everyone’s awed admiration of Henrik’s late wife, Anna, whom we see only in a photo. The sight — and sound — of Johan with his head between the speakers listening to the brutal Scherzo from Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony tells you all you need to know. | Swedish | 111m

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