Direct-to-video material has taken the place of drive-in and B-movies in today's marketplace, trading in more lurid, lowbrow material than you'll find in their more lavish theatrical counterparts. Heaven and Break Up, two new direct-to-video movies released by Miramax's genre division Dimension, are the cinematic equivalent of trashy paperback novels, both telling slight yet overheated stories about misfits involved in murder, deception, and revenge. Bridget Fonda plays the central misfit in Break Up, a timid deaf housewife who, after being thrown down a flight of stairs by her abusive husband (Hart Bochner), wakes to find herself framed for his murder. Thankfully for her, however, Bochner loiters about town waiting to get caught, a process complicated by the fact that everyone in Break Up is as dumb as spit. This is especially true of a cop (Steven Weber) who insists on Fonda's guilt even after Bochner does everything but carve "I faked my own death and framed my wife for murder" into his forehead. Tawdry, exploitative, and lacking common sense and suspense, Break Up possesses all the flaws inherent to pulp material without any of its redeeming virtues. Much better, but still second-rate, is Heaven, starring Hal Hartley regular Martin Donovan as a down-and-out architect in the midst of a painful divorce. His life takes a turn for the better, however, after he gets involved with a clairvoyant transvestite prostitute (Danny Edwards) who can see, but not control, the future. Heaven's plot is even less plausible than Break Up's, but Donovan's estimable presence, coupled with a sturdy script and director, keeps things firmly grounded. Scott Reynolds (The Ugly) directs in an elliptical, chronology-jumping fashion that at times suggests a dour, laconic, less cynical variation on Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, and he generally does the best he can with the material at hand. Adapted from a novel by Chad Taylor, Heaven is at best mildly diverting, but that's more than enough to set it apart from the worthless likes of Break Up.

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