'Limey,' 'Boys' explore dark themes

Opening today

Many filmmakers are in the opposite of a feel-good mood just now. Some of the most talked-about new pictures treat unsettling subjects with disturbing directness.

Exhibit A is The Limey, directed by Steven Soderbergh, who gave American independent cinema a major boost when his "sex, lies, and videotape" became a runaway hit 11 years ago. His career has endured more downs than ups since then, but "The Limey" could improve his fortunes if US moviegoers take to it as enthusiastically as audiences at the Toronto filmfest did.

And this might well happen, thanks to Terence Stamp's searing portrayal of a British hit man who visits Los Angeles in search of the criminals he blames for his daughter's death. Revisiting the "film noir" style that Soderbergh explored so evocatively in "The Underneath," the movie blends jarring violence with sincere respect for the inarticulate love felt by the main character for his lost child. Stamp continues the impressive comeback he started with "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," and Peter Fonda is amazing as a sleazy Hollywood producer.

Boys Don't Cry, coming to US theaters from the Toronto and New York filmfests, tells a fact-based story that illuminates many sad headlines about hate crimes. It gives a partly fictionalized account of Brandon Teena, a young Midwesterner who felt uncomfortable as a woman and decided to pass as a man.

Directed by Kimberly Peirce from a screenplay she wrote with Andy Bienen, the movie paints a candid portrait of Teena's sexual confusion, troubled relationships, and tragic death. Hilary Swank, a talented film and TV actress, gives one of the year's most devastating performances as the profoundly troubled protagonist.

*The films are rated R; both contain violence and vulgarity, and 'Boys Don't Cry' contains graphic sexual material.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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