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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

At Americom: Saints and Psychos

It's embarrassing to admit being taken in by a movie like "Color of Night": The credibility gap is vast and much of the acting unconvincing. But these seem like minor details in the face of a gripping plot that includes five deranged psychotherapy patients, two almost equally confused psychologists, a cop with the sensitivity of a gorilla, and best of all, solid action from beginning to end.

In the predictable role of the macho-but-actually-very-sensitive hero, Bruce Willis, as colorblind psychologist Bill Capa, faces the unenviable task of recovering from the traumas of his own professional failures while solving a murder case and trying to guide a kleptomaniac nymphomaniac, an obsessive counter and several others through weekly group therapy. His own existential dilemmas finally reach the point where he is weeping to his patients about why he is not worthy of treating them. All this while steadily falling for the waiflike Rose (Jane March), who literally runs into him shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles.

His only ally is the caustic Hector Martinez (Ruben Blades) a disgruntled cop who makes a mockery of both of their professions, and carries the film with his sardonic one-liners.

It may sound like a recipe for disaster, but the plot is gripping nonetheless, and the film's profound lack of political correctness -- basically portraying nuts trying to heal nuts -- provides plenty of comic relief. The film's salvation lies in the fact that every character in the film seems in some way deranged, making it impossible to fathom which one could have committed the murder.

Perhaps "Color of Night" would not have seemed quite so brilliant had it not followed "Little Buddha" -- a classic example of a failed attempt to popularize a religious story.

It begins promisingly with a beautiful monastery in Bhutan, mountains, flowing red robes and bustling monks imparting ancient wisdom. As they approach the end of a nine-year quest for the reincarnation of their beloved teacher, they follow dreams and visions, ready to travel the earth to find him.

And sure enough, just as you're beginning to enjoy the monastery, the scene shifts to Seattle and the home of Dean and Lisa Conran, whose son, Jesse, the monks chose as a potential reincarnation of the master.

To understand his potential mission, young Jesse is told the principles of Buddhism and the story of Siddhartha's path to enlightenment.

And here we are transported to ancient India, where Keanu Reeves plays a Siddhartha who from beginning to end seems more demented than holy.

Siddhartha lives a life of luxury, sheltered from the evils of life. One day he goes out and sees ... illness. "Sick? What is that?" he asks, bewildered, with a not very convincing Indian accent. Then he sees death and cries, eye makeup perfectly designed to look sexy even as it runs.

And so it goes -- with soundbites of Buddhism thrown in at all stages, until, muscles still bulging despite years of asceticism, he accepts a bowl of rice from a beautiful girl, and reaches enlightenment through the middle path between hedonism and self-denial.

Back in Seattle, Jesse's parents undergo an agonizing (for the viewer) search for the meaning of life, making wide-eyed comments like, "We don't know why we're born or even if there is a 'why?' And that's interesting."

The baseball-capped Jesse goes to Bhutan, where he finds two other candidates and the search for the real reincarnated master continues.

Despite beautiful shots of Bhutan and Kathmandu, the film suffers hugely from its apparent need to bring everything back to middle-class America in order to make it understandable to a mass audience.

"Color of Night" will be shown every evening at 9 p.m., with additional performances Sundays at 4 p.m. "Little Buddha" is on every evening at 6:30 p.m. Both are at the Americom House of Cinema, in the Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel through Tuesday. Tickets are the ruble equivalent of $7.50. Tel. 941-8747. Nearest metro: Kievskaya.