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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Films: Two Hoots and a Very Hollow Point

Some movies -- a relative handful -- are based on their creators' experience of reality; they delve imaginatively into various aspects of existence and bring back to us a sharper sense of what it means to be alive. But most movies are based on other movies, on their creators' recollections of scenes, reactions, styles and conventions they've seen portrayed on-screen countless times before -- which doesn't mean, of course, they can't also be a hoot. Two new English-language movies opening this weekend in Moscow -- the big-budget thriller "Copycat" and the low-rent action film "Hollow Point" -- fall into the second category: Both are movies made from movies. The crucial difference between them, however, is their degree of hootability.

"Copycat," playing at the Renaissance Hotel's Dome Theater, is a qualified hoot -- if you don't mind a steady diet of lovingly recreated shots of mutilated young women, that is. But strong performances by stars Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter mean the film is never less than interesting, although it falls far short of the kind of dark intensity it aspires to.

Weaver, as an expert on serial killers driven into agoraphobic retirement by an attack from one of her subjects, has far and away the best of it here. In the early scenes especially, she puts across a vivid sense of the edgy, self-devouring energy of someone fighting off madness. Hunter, playing a San Francisco detective who enlists Weaver's help when a serial killer begins stalking the city, is given much less to work with. There's really nothing she can do with her clich?d role as the smart, tough cookie except make it the best darned smart, tough cookie clich? you ever saw. And she does.

The biggest hoot of the film is the performance by crooner Harry Connick, Jr. Playing the serial killer from Weaver's past, he brings a loony relish to his small but important role. Although his outsized Southern hick mannerisms sometimes make it seem as if he's auditioning for the lead in a remake of "Ernest Goes to Camp," Connick injects a much-needed liveliness into the movie, which often threatens to come to a dead stop while it admires its own stylish veneer.

"Copycat," directed by Jon Amiel ("Sommersby" and "The Singing Detective"), is certainly a well-done film, and it hits all the right notes for a modern version of the well-worn genre. The Internet and computer graphics play a key part in the plot, and old-movie stereotypes are freshened up a bit: The "dumb blonde" of yore becomes a slow but lovable hunk; the ever-faithful secretary (Sam Spade's "Precious," et al) becomes the ever-faithful male personal assistant. This is actually rather interesting -- or could have been, if more had been done with it, if it didn't come across as simply a rote inversion of standard fare.

Like so many big-time productions, "Copycat" leaves you with a feeling of frustration. You think: If only they had taken all this money, these fine actors, this obvious intelligence and craftsmanship -- even a few of these pleasantly familiar clich?s -- and let their imaginations run with it, instead of larding things down with "high concept" plotlines and programmatic action sequences. The film is not bad at all; it provides some diversion for an idle hour; but what hootability it could have had.

The second movie, "Hollow Point," showing at the Radisson-Slavjanskaya's Americom House of Cinema, is not, by any imaginable stretch, a hoot. In fact, it's more like a prolonged dry heave: nothing substantial comes up, but you still feel sick. Whereas "Copycat" takes its cue from classic thrillers of film legend, "Hollow Point" looks more like a pastiche of snippets from failed television pilot-movies for late '70s cop shows.

The movie stars Tia Carrere (late of "Wayne's World") as an FBI agent doing battle with the Italian, Chinese and Russian mafias in Boston. One salient fact about the film must be mentioned right away: Tia Carrere cannot act. There's nothing dishonorable about this, of course; millions of us can't. But it is somewhat tedious to spend a couple of hours watching someone try -- and fail miserably -- to achieve the thespian heights of one of Charlie's Angels. Her witless love interest -- played with stubbly brio by Thomas Ian Griffith -- is even more tiresome, because he can act, a little bit; and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. With a leaden quip and a jaunty tip of his black toboggan, he mugs and whoops his way through a series of stunningly implausible "action" scenes and plot twists.

Two very good actors, Donald Sutherland and John Lithgow, play supporting roles, and one can only wonder what extremes of financial emergency forced their participation here. Sutherland, one of the screen's best and most versatile actors, does a bizarre turn -- the icy hitman as manic, cutesy cornball -- while Lithgow more wisely sleepwalks through his ridiculous role as a messianic, philosophy-spouting crime overlord. Hootless through and through.

The only spark of wit associated with the entire production of "Hollow Point" comes from the brave soul who gave the film its title, setting up an almost irresistible target for smug wordplay from reviewers dazed -- even dazzled -- by its perfect nullity. But why add another clich? to the pile?

"Copycat," at the Dome Theater at the Renaissance Hotel, 18/1 Olimpiisky Prospekt, shows Feb. 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 4:30 and 9 p.m, Feb. 5, 7, 8, 9 at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Also showing: "Free Willy 2," Feb. 3, 4, 10, and 11 at 2:30 and 7 p.m. Tel. 931-9873. Nearest metro: Prospekt Mira.

"Hollow Point" shows at the Americom at the Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel, 2 Berezhkovskaya Naberezhnaya, on Feb. 4 at 9 p.m., Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 7, 10 and 11 at 7 p.m. Also showing at the Americom is the Russian action film (with English subtitles) "The Crusader," Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 6 to 9 at 9 p.m., Feb. 10 and 11 at 4:30 and 9 p.m. Tel. 941-8890. Nearest metro: Kievskaya.