A weekly update of film releases

CLASS ACTION - Two lawyers, father and daughter, take opposite sides on a politically sensitive lawsuit. The issues of the film are more interesting than its melodramatics. Gene Hackman is excellent when he isn't overdoing his patented nice-guy routine. Directed by Michael Apted. (Rated R)

THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS - Christopher Walken gives a brilliantly demonic performance in this offbeat melodrama about tourists in Venice who develop a morbid fixation with an eccentric couple. The story is grimly fascinating even though it doesn't make a bit of sense. Paul Schrader directed Harold Pinter's screenplay. (Rated R)

THE FIVE HEARTBEATS - They're a black rhythm-and-blues group, and they face every challenge from record-company corruption to drug-abuse temptation as they travel from the mid-1960s to the present. The movie is too ambitious for its own good, and too many scenes are either overcooked or half-baked. There's a lot of energy and soulful music, though. Robert Townsend directed. (Rated R)

GUILTY BY SUSPICION - A traveling filmmaker returns to the US in the early 1950s and finds himself under FBI investigation for communist sympathies that he's never had. The film effectively captures the passions and paranoias of Hollywood's blacklisting period, although it's manipulative and simplistic at times. Made by producer Irwin Winkler in his debut as a writer/director. (Rated PG-13)

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