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Stars: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer, Laura Mennell, Stephen McHattie

Director: Zack Snyder

The special effects in this comic-strip adventure are amazing and it looks fantastic too. But boy is it long. My advice: nod off in the dull bits, but get your partner to wake you up for the action. The sex, violence and bad language are as graphic as the pictorial 'novel' from which the film's adapted, and in some respects it's a new approach to the epic fantasy genre: this is The Invincibles with real blood, or perhaps how you would imagine Steven Seagal would make a superhero film - full of split limbs, cracked skulls and disintegrating bodies.

The not-terribly-interesting plot, though, is that old chestnut about retired superheroes being called into action again, but dressed up a bit. The film is set in a fictional 1985, where Nixon has somehow wangled a third term of office (Tricky Dicky indeed), and the creator of impending havoc may be one of the superheroes themselves, of whom The Comedian (Morgan) is dispatched in the first reel.

Other caped crusaders included sexy Laurie (Akerman), bespectacled Dan (Wilson), raggedy-masked Rorschach (Haley, giving the film's best performance), Adrian (Goode), who's become a big business magnate, and John (Crudup), a huge blue naked superman with abilities to see the future that someone is messing with.

The villain is obvious from the start, but some good sequences do keep the film going, notably one when Rorschach finds himself in prison with everyone out to get him. The acting is pretty respectable, the weak link being Brit Goode, as the too-effete Adrian, whose attempt at an American accent is passing at best. I wasn't too sure what happened to the blue man at the end, but I may have closed my eyes at the wrong moment. You suspect a sequel looms, but it will need to have a more original plot than this one.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Paramount (Paramount/Warner Bros). Technicolor.
162 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 27 Feb 2009