Altered States And Demoman

MAX (JEFF BRIDGES) IS AN architect who has always been afraid of flying--until he's in a plane crash. In the air, at the moment when death seems a certainty, he transcends his fear and achieves something like a state of grace; his unearthly calm enables him to rescue several passengers. Back on terra firma, where he is proclaimed a hero, he finds it impossible to slip back into his old fife. He is, in the title of Peter ("Witness") Weir's strange and unnerving movie, Fearless. Dazed but elated, he can no longer relate to the pettiness and mendacity of everyday life. He withdraws from his loving wife (Isabella Rossellini) and turns away from his son. Instead, he is powerfully drawn to a fellow survivor, Carla (Rosie Perez), who lost her child in the crash, and has become almost catatonic in her grief and guilt. The airline's psychologist (John Turturro) can't reach her, but Max has the power to bring her back to life.

How are we supposed to regard Max's altered state? An ambiguity, rare in Hollywood movies, hangs over Weir's film, which screenwriter Rafael Yglesias adapted from his own novel. Has Max become a kind of angel--enlightened, spiritually purified--or has he become monstrous in his arrogance, his delusion of immortality? Clinically, he's suffering from posttraumatic-stress syndrome, but in illness he discovers ecstasy, and is loath to give it up.

The intense, portentous, quasi-mystical atmosphere of "Fearless" is reminiscent of Weir's early work in his native Australia, "Picnic at Hanging Rock" and "The Last Wave." A gifted stylist, his re-creations of the airplane crash (scattered throughout the story in flashback) have a queasy visceral impact. At its best, the movie has the unsettling ability to make the viewer see the world from Max's heightened, unbalanced point of view. The manic conviction of Bridges's performance holds us, but the film isn't always able to sustain its hypnotic tone. When Max and Carla go shopping for presents for his dead father and her dead son, the whimsy threatens to get out of hand. And when he tries to cure her of her guilt by driving a car into a wall (to show how she couldn't have held onto her baby), you may wonder if it's Max or the movie that has gone bonkers. Still, "Fearless" is the rare commercial movie that raises more questions than it answers. You leave it in an altered state yourself--moved, not quite satisfied, but certain you've seen something out of the ordinary.

Demolition Man is a movie that should have been fun, and isn't. John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), a "maniac" cop from the anarchic bad old days of 1996, is released from his cryogenic prison sentence in the year 2032 to pursue the similarly defrosted "maniac" criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), his archenemy. The cops in the future can't handle the job because "San Angeles" in the 21st century is a peaceful, crimeless, utterly sterile place--a fascist Eden of unending banality where cocktail pianists sing old commercial jingles, fines are given for profanity, where sex and cholesterol are illegal and all restaurants are called Taco Bell. Leave it to Sly to teach these geeks the virtues of vulgarity, rebellion and brute force. it sounds a lot better than it plays. Marco Brambilla, a novice director, can't begin to mesh the schizy mixture of headbanging violence, future-shock satire and Hollywood in-jokes. The actors have no characters to play and scramble haplessly for a consistent style. The exuberantly badass Snipes at least seems to be enjoying himself. Sly gets to maim, kill, take his clothes off and, in one of the movie's actually funny moments, knit. He makes a lovely red sweater.