RUSSIAN film about the war in Chechnya is unlikely to cheer anyone up, but The
( Tuesday, 11.35pm, SBS) may be the best thing going this week, if we don’t count Ten’s latest repeat of Jaws ( Saturday, 8.40pm). The Russians do war rather well. They made that stupendous film of War and Peace , Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying is for me the most moving of all World War II films and Elem Klimov’s Come and See , set in Nazi-occupied Belarus, is unequalled for its nightmarish vision of suffering. In 2003, when Nikolai Stambula was shooting The Forced March , about the friendship of two Russian soldiers in Chechnya, Vladimir Putin was doing his best to obliterate the place. Given the hatreds on both sides, Stambula’s film is surprisingly evenhanded: Russians and Chechnyans are portrayed as equally ruthless, treacherous and violent. The two heroes are captured by a guerrilla commander, Hasan, and a ransom demanded from their families. It’s a gripping and moving film, and its portrayal of mateship and loyalty in battle has echoes of Gallipoli .
( Friday, noon, Seven) is a tongue-incheek comedy thriller about a Los Angeles dentist ( Steve Martin) on the run from the cops. According to one character, ‘‘ lying is a lot like tooth decay’’, but dental jokes are no more amusing than Russian war films these days, even with a cast including Laura Dern and Helena Bonham Carter. Spider-Man 2 ( Saturday, 9.15pm, Nine) may be one of those rare sequels that improves on the original. Alfred Molina is a maverick nuclear physicist who accidentally mutates into a metallic creature in sunglasses, making a more convincing bad guy than Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. If anything, the action is more spectacular, with Tobey Maguire still swinging around Manhattan while his girlfriend ( Kirsten Dunst) yearns for domesticity. It may be time to give Spidie a rest, and John Travolta would agree. In Be Cool ( Friday, 10.50pm, Nine; 11.50pm, WA) he plays a loan shark turned film producer who is sick of Hollywood’s endless appetite for sequels and embarks on a career in music management after his buddy is gunned down by a Russian mobster. This is a sequel to Get Shorty , Barry Sonnenfeld’s stylish adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel, and the fact that it surfaced 10 years after the first film suggests ( rightly) a certain lack of inspiration. The producer was Danny DeVito,