In a standard Hollywood film, Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) would be the villain: he sports a goatee, smokes and--gasp!--reads books. Yet in the Polanski netherworld, Corso is the hero, in search of the devil's autobiography. Before it goes both sluggish and batty, the movie offers some of the grace notes of classic thrillers. It's handsome and elaborate, with nicely quirky turns by Depp, Frank Langella and Emmanuelle Seigner (Mrs. P). Polanski, the perpetual exile, has made his most accessible film since fleeing the U.S. soon after Chinatown.
--By Richard Corliss