Kicking off a triple bill from Regent Releasing is "The Magician," in which a hit man improbably allows himself to be filmed in action. That's the cream of the jest in writer-director-star Scott Ryan's darkly comic faux documentary, a gritty, shot-off-the cuff gem and a top prize winner in its native Australia. Ryan's wiry, cocky Ray joins forces with his former neighbor and film student pal Max (Massimiliano Andrighetto, who actually shot this film) to document his exploits. The picture unspools like a disarmingly amusing shaggy dog story with Ray, who sees himself as a vintage Clint Eastwood antihero, sounding off on various subjects only to bring us up short, reminding us that Ray is the real deal.
The second film, Roger Spottiswoode's vigorous, impassioned "Shake Hands with the Devil," offers a quietly powerful, incisive portrait of Canadian Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallarme ( Roy Dupuis), who was sent to Rwanda in 1993 on a peacekeeping mission as the ruling Hutu attacked the rebel Tutsi, yet he was hobbled by the U.N. leadership and faced with the indifference of the world's superpowers. Rugged and resolute, Dupuis' Dallarme is a true hero as he tries to keep the peace against increasingly overwhelming odds. Dallarme managed to save 30,000 lives, but by the time help came in 1994 some 300,000 people had been slaughtered. That Rwanda is a country of much natural beauty makes the bloodshed seem all the more terrible.