By Troy Patterson
July 10, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Two takes on fighting in the Balkans. The first is a fact-based melodrama about a Brit TV reporter (Dillane) who, repulsed by Serbian terrorism and the West’s indifference, takes a Bosnian orphan home to England. It makes for artful propaganda but not art: The characters — Harrelson’s hard-drinking newsman, Tomei’s tough but kind aide worker, Dillane’s gentleman sentimentalist — are just types, and director Michael Winterbottom’s milking of a real orphanage bombing leaves you feeling manipulated. Perhaps because Serbian director Srdjan Dragojevic shot Pretty Village, Pretty Flame during the war, his film is richer and stranger. Here, a wounded Serb soldier (Bjelogrlic) recuperating in a Belgrade hospital recalls his battle experience — flashbacks mix white-hot rage (at himself, at the dementia of life during wartime) with jet-black humor to suggest a combination of ”Platoon,” ”Dr. Strangelove,” and ”Dumb and Dumber.” Where ”Welcome to Sarajevo” reiterates General Sherman’s old saw that war is hell, ”Pretty Village” finds more peculiar truths: As one character observes, ”war’s a whore.” B+

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