These movies arrive on video store shelves this week.
(R, 1999, 102 minutes, Columbia-TriStar)
This exhilarating "Rashomon" for the rave set looks at the events of a single drug- and danger-fueled night from three perspectives. Part One ("Ronna") follows an L.A. grocery store clerk (cucumber- cool Sarah Polley) as she tries to stave off eviction by making a quick profit from the sale of pharmaceutical-grade Ecstasy to a couple of self-absorbed party boys (Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf). Part Two ("Simon") jumps to Las Vegas where her British co-worker (manic Desmond Askew) gets into trouble of his own over an encounter with two strippers, a loaded firearm and an angry bouncer. The final chapter, wrapping the whole mess up in a demented and satisfying crescendo, is told from the point of view of the aforementioned party boys. Director Doug Liman choreographs the adrenalized tale with verve, smarts and an unforced hipness. Contains drug use, profanity, sex, nudity, gun violence and other irresponsible behavior.
-- Michael O'Sullivan
THE MOD SQUAD
(R, 1999, 94 minutes, MGM)
Aaron Spelling's attempt to update his own TV show (1968-1973) that starred Peggy Lipton, Michael Cole and Clarence Williams III is a disaster. It's flat. It has a meandering, obvious scenario about dirty cops. And there's zero chemistry among Claire Danes, Omar Epps and Giovanni Ribisi, the supposedly hip new trio. Enlisted by Capt. Adam Greer (Dennis Farina) to infiltrate the seedy club-scape of Los Angeles, they seem to have been drugged for their parts. "The Mod Squad" doesn't have the hippie-countercultural spirit of the TV show, nor does it have the cast or conviction to play off it. Neither audience -- the generation raised on the show and those who have never seen it but know the present cast -- will enjoy the movie's moribund metabolism or its "Nod Squad" propensity to induce slumber. Contains obscenity, violence, brief nudity and sexual situations.
-- Desson Howe