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Film round-up

Is there ever a good reason for a film to be longer than 96 minutes? There are two this month exceed that 130. Neither of them merit it. Speed Racer (cert PG, 134 mins) features a strong cast and distinctive day-glo art direction. But the Wachowski brothers' brave attempt to try something new pales beside their earlier blockbuster The Matrix. The overwhelming race sequence visuals hurl too much too fast at the audience. Perhaps they will work better in the IMAX version.

The anime action epic Vexille (cert 12a; 109 mins) about a US mission against a Japanese robotics programme proves both more coherent and more pedestrian.

The derivative Doomsday (cert 18; 105 mins) recalls Escape From New York (the wall around no-man's land) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (the gruesome violent sports arena, climactic customised car chases). The British director Neil Marshall's prior horrors have been impressive works, focussing on small groups under pressure (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), so Doomsday comes as a disappointment.

The French entry Heartbeat Detector (cert 12a; 135 mins) has a corporate psychologist, Mathieu Almaric, investigate an unpredictable CEO, Michael Lonsdale. It's based on a novel, overly long, and horribly well intentioned, dealing towards its finale with the Holocaust. Those good intentions can't save it, however, with the
running length the final nail in its coffin.

Better is the 12th-century epic Mongol: The rise to power of Genghis Khan (cert 15; 125 mins), which follows the future ruler's history through his wife's abduction and retrieval, and his rivalry with a fellow warrior. Intermittently bloody, it is a gripping tale, but never questions the 'might is right' mentality.

Thank goodness for In Search Of A Midnight Kiss (cert 15; 99 mins), an independent romantic drama concerning one man's search for a kiss on midnight of New Year's eve. By turns gross, touching and heart-rending, it achieves more on a minimal budget with consistent inventiveness than most of the other films here.

Jeremy Clarke