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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider review

Given the puzzle-solving, deathtrap-dodging, crypt-crashing nature of the Tomb Raider videogames, this is probably the point where you'd expect to read a comparison between Simon West's movie adaptation and Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Well, sure enough, Tomb Raider is a bit Ark-ish, but only in the same way that Sunny Delight is a bit like freshly squeezed orange juice.

That's not to say West's effort is a flop, it's just that he draws his inspiration more from Ray Harryhausen (animated statue-monsters: check) and John Woo (slo-mo stylism and twin-gun action: check), delivering less of a coherent quest movie and more of a loosely bundled set of hyperkinetic action and FX-showcase sequences. So we get Lara (Angelina Jolie) wrestling with a killer robot, bungee-fighting a horde of masked goons and kick-boxing stone monkeys to dust. Which, let's be honest, makes for great fun.

It doesn't really matter why Lara is searching out these two triangle halves and what she's planning to do with them, because you won't really care by the time her 50th ammo clip clunks to the floor (ie, about five minutes in). Like The Mummy and its sequel, it's just another silly adventure flick, and there's nothing wrong with that.

What is a shame, however, is that the screenplay lacks the sparky wit of Stephen Sommers' Mummy scripts, instead playing up the woolly New Age mysto-nonsense and lamely attempting to drop some emotional baggage on Lara. The whole dead Daddy subplot is handled ineptly, forming the excuse for a few cringe-inducing flashbacks and providing some very flimsy motivation.

This is also why Tomb Raider's climax is far less satisfying than it should be. The film peaks an hour in, leaving you feeling they could have delivered more monster fighting instead of what turns out to be some very clunky emotional closure using the laziest and most predictable of plot devices.

But the most important thing about this movie is the portrayal of its main character, and Jolie is damn near perfect as the cool-as-ice action babe. Her aristo-English is impeccable, she glides effortlessly through the rough `n' tumble fight sequences and that tight vest/short short/thigh holster costume clings to her curves as impressively as was intended.

The only problem is, Jolie's Croft is a little too cool. When confronted with a huge, sword-wielding, six-armed statue, for example, she barely bats an eyelid. You never feel that she's in any real danger or that the odds are massively stacked against her. It's as if she thinks she has a limitless number of lives and that, if killed, she can just regenerate and start again - - rather like a videogame character. Oh, hang on...

You won't be disappointed with Jolie's Lara Croft or the handling of the action sequences, but the clumsy subplotting and lacklustre climax prove annoying. Still, it's a solid enough franchise-starter, so there's room for improvement in the inevitable sequel.

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