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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

IN the open­ing scene of Lord of War (Sun­day, 8.30pm, M Thriller/Crime), a Rus­sian arms dealer called Yuri Orlov (Ni­co­las Cage) con­fronts the au­di­ence: There are 550 mil­lion firearms on this planet. That’s one for ev­ery 12 peo­ple. So the ques­tion is: how are we go­ing to arm the other 11?’’ It’s not a bad joke, and it sets the tone of this im­pas­sioned de­nun­ci­a­tion of the in­ter­na­tional arms trade from writer-di­rec­tor An­drew Nic­col. But is it quite the right tone? One-liners come thick and fast: I’m equalop­por­tu­nity mer­chant of death — I’ve sold to ev­ery army ex­cept the Sal­va­tion Army.’’ All witty and cyn­i­cal enough, but in a film in­spired, as I took it, by a sense of rank de­spair — a cor­ro­sive anger at the cor­rup­tion of the trade — even black hu­mour seems out of place. Nic­col wrote a bit­ingly in­tel­li­gent script for The Tru­man Show and his good faith is not in doubt. But de­spite a com­pelling per­for­mance by Cage, Lord of War feels more like a satir­i­cal re­vue than an an­guished de­pic­tion of greed and in­iq­uity.

There are more mem­o­rable one-liners in Bright Young Things (Sun­day, 8.30pm, M Com­edy), a ver­sion of Eve­lyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bod­ies, di­rected by Stephen Fry. Waugh’s satire was set in 1929 in his imag­i­nary dis­trict of Metroland, home of Lon­don’s idle-rich so­phis­ti­cates and so­cial climbers. Emily Mor­timer plays Nina Blount, girl­friend of a gos­sip colum­nist and daugh­ter of an ec­cen­tric ty­coon (Peter O’Toole). Other vile bod­ies in­clude politi­cians, press barons, a prime min­is­ter and an Amer­i­can lady evan­ge­list. Waugh had great fun nail­ing up­per-class English va­pid­ity, and Fry has great fun film­ing with hand-held cam­eras. He whirls them around at a dizzy­ing speed with lit­tle thought for the com­fort of au­di­ences, who are ad­vised to close their eyes dur­ing the party scenes and con­cen­trate on the di­a­logue.

As with Vile Bod­ies, the chief fas­ci­na­tion of Cur­tis Hanson’s daz­zlingly ac­com­plished noir po­lice thriller LA Con­fi­den­tial (Wed­nes­day, 2.05pm, M Thriller/Crime) lies in its fidelity to a lost time and place. This is how James Ell­roy cel­e­brated 1950s Los An­ge­les in his novel, and this, you can bet, is how it was in those far-off days when men wore hats, TV was chal­leng­ing the stu­dio star sys­tem and Hol­ly­wood was still fa­mous for its palm trees. The film is about cor­rup­tion in the up­per reaches of the LA Po­lice Depart­ment. Loner cop Bud White (Rus­sell Crowe) tan­gles with Guy Pearce’s sanc­ti­mo­nious Ed Ex­ley, who has no hes­i­ta­tion tes­ti­fy­ing against his col­leagues while claw­ing his way to the top. But the star is LA it­self, lov­ingly re-cre­ated in all its sleaze and charm.

Which brings us to Hol­ly­wood End­ing (Mon­day, 3.45pm, M Master­piece), in which Woody Allen plays a hard-up di­rec­tor of­fered the chance of a come­back pro­vided he can work with his ex (Tea Leoni) and the stu­dio head (Treat Wil­liams) who stole her from him. For Allen fans, I rec­om­mend Blue Jas­mine in cine­mas.

Critic’s choice

(M) ★★★ Sun­day, 8.30pm, M Com­edy

(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Wed­nes­day, 2.05pm, M Thriller/Crime

(MA15+) ★★★ ✩ Sun­day, 8.30pm, M Thriller/Crime

LA Con­fi­den­tial

A scene from

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