Azita Rayeji plays the part of the bride in the Iranian film "Crimson Gold," about a pizza-delivery man.<BR>

"Crimson Gold" is sort of the Iranian equivalent of "Taxi Driver." That is if Robert De Niro was delivering pizzas.

Which is not to say the two films are of similar quality. But they are like-minded films, especially in the way that they express cultural and societal frustrations through one revenge-minded character.

Where the two really differ is in the execution. While Martin Scorsese's 1976 arguable classic builds to a frenzied, violent conclusion, this Iranian import simply drifts along from scene to scene, favoring a decidedly more low-key approach.

It's a deliberate move to show off some of the tedium that motivates the film's main character. However, after watching too many scenes run too long, "Crimson Gold" itself will probably become tedious to most audiences — especially those outside its home country.

The observer of social injustice here is Hussein (Hossain Emadeddin), a portly pizza-delivery guy whose life and career are going nowhere fast. In fact, he and his best friend (Kamyar Sheisi) are even toying with the idea of becoming petty criminals, just to make ends meet.

But Hussein can't really motivate himself to do anything about his situation until his frustrations bubble after a snooty jeweler won't even give Hussein and his pal the time of day.

The filmmakers (director Jafar Panahi and screenwriter Abbas Kiarostami) take one huge risk by starting this story at the end. It's meant to show that this particular tale is not going to end well, but it's the best, most riveting scene in the movie. Everything else is pretty anticlimactic.

What would really help is if Hussein were a particularly interesting character. As played by Emadeddin, he's so boring that watching him becomes a chore.

"Crimson Gold" is not rated but would probably receive an R for scattered use of strong sexual profanity, crude sexual slang terms and ethnic slurs, and some scenes of violence (shootings and some riot suppression, mostly overheard). Running time: 95 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com