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Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Emily Mortimer, Tim Allen, Alice Braga, Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna, Jennifer Grey, Rebecca Pidgeon, David Paymer

Director: David Mamet

A keenly-written yarn from David Mamet that's well-acted but lacks dramatic edge. Key events are difficult to follow and the climactic revelations about fight-fixing don't really make sense, any more than twists involving the wife of the central character.

He's Mike (Ejiofor) who, with his wife Sondra (Braga) runs a jiu-jitsu academy that's struggling to survive financially. Suddenly two events turn Mike's world upside-down. A neurotic lawyer (Mortimer), at the academy after damaging Mike's car, nervously grabs a cop student's gun and fires, shattering a window.

Soon after, Mike is involved in a barroom fight when coming to the aid of a film star (Allen), who befriends him and his wife and invites them to dinner. It seems that Sondra gets commissions for her dressmaking there, but her contacts prove 'unavailable' after she has borrowed 30,000 dollars for materials.

Things now rapidly go pear-shaped, after a watch Mike has been given as thanks from the star proves to have been stolen. Why would the star's manager (Mantegna) do such a thing? The film offers no easy answers to this, or much else, as a rather muddled climax approaches.

All of the performances here are on the mark - though Ejiofor appears more in control of his in the earlier stages - and, unusually for this writer-director, it's just the construction of plot that lets them down.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Sony (Sony Pictures Classics). Colour by deluxe.
99 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 20 Sep 2008