Geoff Cox’s DVD guide: Bel Ami, Wild Bill, Shanghai

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The commercial tail wags the artistic dog with the casting of Twilight heart-throb Robert Pattinson in BEL AMI (15: Optimum).

In this decorous dramatisation of the oft-filmed French novel, Pattinson plays a former soldier on the make in Paris.

It’s believable that the young actor’s chiselled looks could lure a succession of influential aristos into bed as he climbs the social ladder to wealth and influence.And Twihards will no doubt be satisfied with a glimpse of his bare bottom.

But Pattinson lacks the range to convey the required mix of ambition, guile and duplicity.

As his lovers, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Christina Ricci do their best with an English-sounding script, but Budapest fails to convince as the French capital for exterior shots.

The film’s directors, Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, are founders of the Cheek By Jowl theatre company, yet they struggle to convert their stage experience into a convincing cinematic whole.

> Actor Dexter Fletcher makes a bleakly entertaining directorial debut with WILD BILL (15: Universal), in which family drama meets crime thriller on the streets of East London.

Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles) is released from an eight-year prison stretch and discovers his two sons fending for themselves in the family’s Newham council flat.

The feckless father’s first instinct is to scarper, but older boy Dean (Will Poulter) blackmails him into staying long enough to stop social services from taking the brothers into care.

The younger, Jimmy (Sammy Williams), is particularly vulnerable and badly needs a dad around.

Parental responsibility presents under-skilled Bill with quite a challenge as his former criminal associates are pressuring him to return to his old ways.

The film is held together by engaging performances from stalwart Creed-Miles and his junior co-stars, although it falters when it brings on unconvincing neighbourhood drug dealers in an attempt to increase tension.

In a cast somewhat over-stuffed with familiar faces, Andy Serkis is the worst offender as a hammy crime-lord.

Yet there’s plenty of heart elsewhere in the movie to keep us rooting for Bill and the boys.

> John Cusack stars in a noir-like tale of espionage and double-dealing set in 1940s SHANGHAI (15: Entertainment In Video).

Paul Soames (Cusack) is a US Naval Intellligence agent who travels to China to investigate the death of his friend Connor (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Posing as a journalist with pro-Nazi sentiments, he uses his charm and know-how to infiltrate the upper echelons of German society in the city and also get close to Germany’s new ally, Japan.

But Soames finds himself in over his head when he becomes involved with a local triad leader (Chow Yun-Fat) and his beautiful wife.

> STREETDANCE 2 (PG: Vertigo), the follow-up to the hit 2010 dance extravaganza, has exactly the same recipe as before, only played out on a slicker canvas.

Falk Hentschel stars as Ash, a freestyle dancer who combs Europe with Eddie (George Sampson) to find the best performers to win the Final Clash in Paris following an earlier humiliation by a rival crew.

Will his fusion of Latin and streetdance thrill the hip-hop brigade and can he learn to “share the moment” with hot salsa partner Eva (Sofia Boutella)?

Tom Conti, complete with dodgy accent, is cast as Eva’s protective uncle whose club doubles as the group’s rehearsal space.

But in this worthy successor, it’s once again the dancing that counts and this sure-fire crowd-pleaser delivers high-energy routines and great pop hits.

> Samuel L. Jackson and Luke Wilson team up in MEETING EVIL (15: Sony), a psychological thriller about a family man who is taken on a twisted and terrifying ride by a dangerous stranger.

John (Wilson) is on a downward trajectory in life. Mounting debts, marital secrets and a faltering career have left him disillusioned.

When the mysterious Richie (Jackson) turns up at his door asking for help getting his car started, John’s life suddenly gets a whole lot worse as he finds himself in the grip of a merciless psychopath. The timid family man will be forced to put his fear and self-doubt to one side if he’s to protect himself and those he loves.

> Talking of downward trajectories, Eddie Murphy’s career continues to head in the same direction in A THOUSAND WORDS (12: Paramount).

It will take me a lot fewer than that to describe this so-called comedy in which Murphy plays a consummate liar who gets his comeuppance. When a literary agent tries to pull a fast one on a spiritual guru, he’s placed under an elaborate curse and in his garden finds a special tree with exactly 1,000 leaves.