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Week of January 29, 2003

The Bank. Robert Connolly. A math wizard (David Wenham) is hired by an evil bank CEO (Anthony LaPaglia) to perfect a system to predict stock-market movements to within a second's accuracy so that the exec may pull off a huge market manipulation and get his board of directors off his back. This new thriller from Down Under, a reasonably adept little item from first-time writer/director Robert Connolly, is relevant to all our recent banking and accounting scandals, which makes it engaging enough to neutralize its occasional plot holes. For most of its length, the plot is more than a little reminiscent of AntiTrust, the unintentionally hilarious computer-biz film from two years ago with Tim Robbins doing his outrageous Bill Gates impersonation. The Bank is by any standard a "better" movie, but it must be added that AntiTrust was more consistently entertaining, in a Showgirls/train-wreck sort of way. The Bank moves swiftly and enjoyably, even if there's nothing on display that leaves more than the lightest impression on the memory. Shows at 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, January 31-February 2, in Webster University's Moore Auditorium, 470 E. Lockwood. (AK)

Casablanca. Michael Curtiz. World War II-era classic starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and the start of a beautiful friendship. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 5, at Beatnik Bob's Café in the City Museum. NR

In the Shadows of the City. Jean Khalil Chamoun. In the Shadows of the City presents a fictionalized narrative, though it seamlessly integrates authentic documentary footage including the siege of Beirut and two 1982 massacres. Jean Khalil Chamoun, previously a war reporter who shot most of the newsreel footage here, drew on his memories of the 1975-1990 civil war in Lebanon. Shadows begins in late 1974 in a southern Lebanese village as Israeli bombings force twelve-year-old Rami and his family to move to Beirut. Following Rami over a decade, we watch a strong young woman named Yasmine, a ruthless mobster called Hyena, a sympathetic widow who runs a coffee shop and other well-drawn characters particularize the troubles. Most unusual, as warring factions divide Beirut into sectors, Chamoun never identifies the factions as Christian or Muslim, opting to focus on humanity in peril. In Farsi with English subtitles. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 4, in Webster University's Moore Auditorium, 470 E. Lockwood. (DC)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. John Cassavetes. On the heels of his sole moment of commercial success with the Academy-honored A Woman Under the Influence, John Cassavetes countered with a strange, almost plotless film that was uniformly blasted as pointless and pretentious. Time has been surprisingly good to Chinese Bookie, and its loose, unpredictable style now seems more exhilarating than self-indulgent. Ben Gazzara -- excellent, as nearly always -- plays a strip-club owner whose only worry is his gambling debt to the mob. That thin thread of a gangster movie is as close as Cassavetes gets to a story; he chooses instead to work around it like a jazz musician improvising his way through the chords of an old standard. Despite its sleazy surroundings, the plot is more cinema verité than melodrama, an intimate and objective look at a man standing at the edge of a moral abyss. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 4, in the Fontbonne University library's Lewis Room. For information, call 314-719-8061. (RH)

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