'The Last Supper'** 1/2 ; Rated R"The...


'The Last Supper'

** 1/2 ; Rated R

"The Last Supper" is an alternately annoying and amusing piece of juvenilia that watches as a houseful of liberal grad students tries to dilute the conservative gene pool by diluting the conservative population -- with poison.

It might be called "Arsenic and the Old Left," and begins with the realization by the group that despite their passions they are pretty helpless when faced with The Real Thing, that is, their true blood enemy whom they have innocently invited to dinner, an implacable sexist, racist, homophobic, psychotic bully. This nasty brute is played by Bill Paxton as every liberal's dream boogyman, lacking only horns, a tail and bad breath, and so when, in a spasm of emotion, one of them is goaded to kill him (with a knife) they are immediately shocked but realize, upon recovery, that A) they'll get away with it and B) killing ideological enemies is a fun hobby.

The movie proper covers their attempts to work a mini-holocaust on those of the right, all delivered with deadpan humor. The designated cretins are played in high gusto by Jason Alexander, Mark Harmon and Charles Durning, among others, and the grad students by Cameron Diaz, Ron Eldard, Annabeth Gish, Jonathan Penner and Courtney Vance. But perhaps the film, which takes its own moral purity as its sine qua non, itself indulges in a little racism when it turns the African-American Vance into the psychopath capable of wanton murder.

Still when Durning and especially Alexander are tripping the light fantastic as carnivores from right-wing hell, the movie is roundly amusing. ** 1/2 ; Rated PG

If you're an environmentalist, the scariest words in the English language are: "Danger, Toxic Waste." If you're a movie critic, they are, "Directed by Jean-Claude Van Damme."

But yes, it's true, the muscles from Brussels makes his debut behind the camera in "The Quest" and the truth is, he seems at home there. The film is conceived as an old-fashioned romantic epic, a kind of "Captain Blood" of kung-fu, and takes place all over the world in far-off 1925, when for peculiar reasons that make no sense, a boodle of monks in a lost city somewhere between Tibet and Shangri-la hold a tourney to find the world's champion fighter.

The tourney makes even less sense: It has no weight or style classifications, so 125-pound arm wrestlers are apt to find themselves matched against 700-pound sumo wrestlers. In this case, weight makes right. Still, you don't go to a Van Damme movie for logic, you go for the fights, and the fights are pretty good.

Besides its opulent production values, the movie manages to present a good deal of colorful martial arts talent from around the world. My favorite was the Japanese monkey fighter, but the Spanish castanet guy was pretty amazing, too. There's little enough doubt as to who the winner will be, but getting there represents a certain kind of low, pure fun. Film students and pointy heads stay away, martial arts freaks, this one's for you.

Pub Date: 4/26/96

Stephen Hunter

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