FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

* BAD COMPANY - A renegade CIA agent goes to work for a private company specializing in crimes like bribery and blackmail and joins one of his colleagues in a scheme to knock off their boss and take the operation's assets for themselves. The steady stream of betrayals would be monotonous even if the filmmaking weren't so heavy on its feet; also disappointing are the surprisingly dull performances by Laurence Fishburne and Ellen Barkin. Directed by Damian Harris. (Rated R)

* DEATH AND THE MAIDEN - The setting is a Latin American country after the fall of a military dictatorship. One main character is a woman who was once kidnaped and tortured by the old government; another is her husband, a lawyer recently named to investigate and denounce such crimes. The third is a stranger who comes to their house by chance, only to be seized and brutally interrogated by the woman, who identifies him as her former tormenter. The movie's fascination comes partly from uncertainty as to whether the stranger is indeed the guilty party or a victim of mistaken identity. On a deeper level, the woman's violent behavior poses troubling questions about the effect gratuitous suffering may have on a decent person. Sigourney Weaver isn't quite up to her most demanding scenes, but Ben Kingsley is expertly enigmatic as the stranger, and Stuart Wilson is excellent as the husband who doesn't know whom to believe. Based on Ariel Dorfman's play. Directed by Roman Polanski with an efficient touch, if not an inspired one. (Rated R)

* STRAWBERRY AND CHOCOLATE - In contemporary Cuba, a young Castro loyalist strikes up an acquaintance with a gay man to gather evidence of his moral decadence, but grows to understand and respect his would-be adversary. The movie is tame in style and indulges some cliches, but it has lively performances and a generous, tolerant spirit. Directed by the towering Cuban filmmaker Tomas Guttierez Alea in collaboration with Juan Carlos Tabio. (Rated R)

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