Directed by David Atkins, staring Steve McQueen, Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Dern, Elias Koteas and Scott Caan.

Remember Steve Martin as the demented dentist in 'Little Shop of Horrors'? Once again he dons his dental robe and surgical gloves to play a tooth-extractor. But this time it's not comedy, but rather an oddball thriller where he plays a straight guy professional, Frank Sangster, engaged to his ditzy dental nurse Jean (Laura Dern). By day he runs a thriving practice, at night retires to his expensive home living an existence as balanced as it is humdrum. Enter siren Susan Ivey (Helena Bonham-Carter), a femme macabre with a penchant for prescription drugs.

Before you can say 'root canal', Frank is drawn into a sleazy web involving Susan, her deranged brother Duane (Scott Caan) and his bar-fly brother Harlan (Elias Koteas). Accused of drug-trafficking and murder, Frank flees the authorities and begins to wonder who is really telling him the truth. To find out he delves into a world he knows nothing of, and realises that to prove his innocence, he may have to dabble in some dirty (and illegal) tactics. There are plenty of viable twists that build towards a clever conclusion.

It takes a few minutes to adjust to Steve Martin not being the gag-spinner he usually is. After you get your head around the fact that he's playing it straight, 'Novocaine' is not bad at all. It's an edgy vehicle, jump-starting with the arrival of Ivey and hurtling in various directions designed to keep the viewer guessing. The plot is a tad incredible but has enough quirky flourishes and suspense to prevent it from flagging. Bonham-Carter is excellent as the twitchy junkie, even if the on-screen chemistry between her and Martin is a little lacking. The usually inane Laura Dern redeems herself as the sparkly girlfriend who is not all she seems.

Some of Martin's straight-man roles have erred on the side of super-dodgy ('Roxanne' anyone?) but 'Novocaine' is solid enough entertainment.

Sinéad Gleeson