Snipes, Sciorra add depth, humanity to their''Jungle Fever'characters

January 17, 1992|By Josh Mooney

JUNGLE FEVER

MCA/Universal Home Video

No retail price listed

Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra, who play a black architect and a white secretary, respectively, fall for each other in this Spike Lee film -- and the pair are such good actors that

they add depth and humanity to their characters, which are, typical of Mr. Lee, designed to be less than realistic.

This is a powerful, but flawed, film. When fate has it that Flipper (Snipes) and Angie (Sciorra) meet and begin a torrid affair, all hell breaks loose. They screw up the most stable aspects of their lives with this "forbidden love" and, in desperation, they try to make the affair work.

But Mr. Lee never intends love to come out the winner here. Angie, he tells us, has fallen for Flipper because of traditional myths about the sexual prowess of black men, while Flipper covets Angie because of similar misconceptions concerning "white chicks." No interracial romance, Mr. Lee offers, can succeed if it's based on stereotypes. He also suggests that they all are.

For her part, in a subtle defiance of the director and his film, Ms. Sciorra gives Angie a heart and a soul that suggests that she could really love Flipper. Mr. Lee's story, however, can't handle its own character's rebellion.

POINT BREAK

Fox Video

$94.98

"Point Break" is an action thriller set against the dynamic and downright strange culture of the Southern California surfing scene. It promises more than it delivers in just about every respect -- from its story to its thrills and chills -- but boasts fine production values and generates some genuinely tense moments amid the down time.

Keanu Reeves, a strangely gifted young actor whose laid-back, frumpy charms are not going to score with all viewers, is cast here as a thrill-seeking rogue FBI agent named Johnny Utah. Transferred from the Midwest to Los Angeles, Utah is a stranger in a strange land, but while investigating a string of exceptionally well-executed bank robberies with his partner (Gary Busey), he gets the chance to go undercover into the surfing community, and it seems like a perfect fit (Reeves can definitely pass for a mellow surf rat.)

The film ends up standing, then falling, around the complicated relationship between Utah and the local surfing guru Bodhi, a near-mystical guy who's into a different path in life -- seeking the ultimate thrill. He teaches Utah his Tao of surfing (not to mention sky-diving), but he is also, of course, part of the crime ring Utah is trying to crush.

As Bodhi, Patrick Swayze puts his physical prowess and laid-back yet frightening allure to good use. It helps having someone dynamic in the role, because Bodhi ends up being frustratingly opaque and ultimately empty.

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