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quick flicks

A Mighty Wind, The Real Cancun, The Good Thief, Identity, Confidence, The Pianist



"The Real Cancun" — Here's proof America's hunger for real-life naughty words and titillating situations hasn't yet been satisfied by the "Girls Gone Wild" series. Sensing this marketing truism, the producers of MTV's "The Real World" have created this big-screen documentation of spring break. As if "The Real World," "Cancun" cast members seem to have been chosen not for their "realness," but because they could fill certain roles that heighten the drama of strangers forced to live in a swank hotel and to be taped doing things mom would not approve of it. Offers little you haven't already seen on MTV's past spring-break coverage, except for one uncensored wet T-shirt contest, "The Real Cancun" feels contrived and boring. **

"The Good Thief" — As Bob, an American expatriate gambler and master thief hiding out in the south of France, Nick Nolte delivers a mesmerizing performance as a washed- out rogue you can't help but like. Working with director Neil Jordan, the two remake Jean-Pierre Melville's classic 1955 movie "Bob le flambeur" with a cheery sense of playfulness. But what starts off as playful soon becomes tedious and all that continental charm merely a shallow veneer. Yet Nolte's jowly and genuine performance remains reason enough to catch this "thief." ****

"Identity" — Dead bodies, red herrings and creepy coincidences litter the screen in "Identity," a thriller with a terrific cast and a nifty psycho hook. Director James Mangold avoids graphic violence, choosing instead to build tension, and then at the very last moment before the slashing begins — Whoosh! his camera quickly pulls away. The cleverly contrived plot begins with a torrential storm and a cadre of travelers who wind up at the same run-down motel. First to arrive are limo driver John Cusack and his faded movie-star passenger (Rebecca De Mornay). In short order, the jumpy manager (John Hawkes) checks in a cop (Ray Liotta) and his prisoner (Jake Busey), a hooker (Amanda Peet), a young couple (Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott) and a family (John C. McGinley, Leila Kenzle, Bret Loehr). But wouldn't you know it, some of the guests start "checking out" before their time. ***

"Confidence" — Shady characters pull scam upon scam, double-cross after double-cross in this sly, amiable James Foley-directed mob fable. Forget the strong cast — Ed Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz and Andy Garcia — the real pleasure of "Confidence" lies in its intricate plotting, stiletto-sharp repartee and fast-moving visual style. Burns plays Jake, a con man whose crew scams a few hundred thousand out of a wimpy accountant. But oops! The money belongs to mob boss, Dustin Hoffman. Jake has a meeting with the glib, gum-cracking Hoffman and agrees to set up another con to get the guy's money back. When a pretty pickpocket (Weisz) joins the team, the multilayered scheme unfolds. Meanwhile, a scruffy G-man (Garcia) lies in wait, ready to bust 'em all. Though Foley gets too stagy near the end, "Confidence" is still quite a ride. ****

"The Pianist" — From fugitive filmmaker and newest Academy Award Best Director recipient Roman Polanski comes this wrenching Holocaust drama. Polanski allow us to witness the strange destiny of Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody, in a now Oscar-winning performance), a young pianist from Warsaw who miraculously survives the Nazi invasion of his hometown. But survival is cruel: He becomes a human mole, hiding in dark corners, vacant buildings, dank alcoves — always away from his true love, the piano. A fugue of tragic human suffering and the nurturing nature of art, Polanski's "The Pianist" is a near masterpiece.

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