A clash of styles arrive from overseas

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Reflections on life and death - especially the latter - are at the core of "Japón" and "Fulltime Killer," imports from overseas aimed at foreign-film aficionados.

Apart from their morbid inclinations, it's hard to imagine more different movies.

"Japón" is the brooding one, telling its somber story through long, leisurely wide-screen shots that appear to be influenced by Shinji Aoyama's laid-back "Eureka," a critical success three years ago.

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The hero of this Spanish-Mexican production is a man who travels from Mexico City to the rugged countryside, where he plans to commit suicide.

Renting a room from a lonely old woman, he comes to value her friendship and gets involved in aspects of her life, including a feud she's having with a relative whose greed is endangering her home. Their relationship grows emotionally and physically intimate, nudging the man toward altered views of the world and his place in it.

"Japón" is Spanish for "Japan," but like such earlier films as "Chinatown" and "Brazil," this film uses its title to evoke an indirect state of mind, not a geographical place.

It's more persuasive as visually engaging cinema than as thoughtful philosophy. At times, its aesthetic ideas are shaky, as when it blurs the line between fiction and documentary without a clear purpose.

It's an engrossing and inventive drama despite its flaws, however, and first-time director Carlos Reygadas received much praise when it won special recognition at the Cannes film festival last spring.

It's not a movie to see if you're in a hurry, but its deliberate pace and thoughtful mood are refreshing antidotes to the hyperactive speed of most Hollywood pictures.

If the average Hollywood picture is too slow and stodgy for you, on the other hand, check out "Fulltime Killer," which continues a long line of kinetic Hong Kong action movies.

The spirit of Hong Kong veterans like John Woo and Tsui Hark hovers over this lightning-quick melodrama about two successful hit men - one secretive and reclusive, the other wild and flamboyant - whose rivalry for the No. 1 reputation brings excitement and danger to a young woman who becomes a pawn in their competition.

The story matters less than the style, full of swooping camera movements, rapid-fire editing, and color-drenched displays of violence the Hong Kong school is famous for.

Clearly targeting the international market, directors Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai have filmed the dialogue in no fewer than four languages, including English. They're sure to find an enthusiastic audience among American action-adventure buffs, but the film's interests may be too narrow to attract crossover viewers.

'Japón,' not rated, contains sex and violence. 'Fulltime Killer,' not rated, contains violence.

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