A serial arsonists is terrorizing the Los Angeles area. Investigating are veteran John Orr (Ray Liotta) and his junior partner Keith Lang (John Leguizamo). Before long, it appears that the arsonist is actually a fireman. The synopsis on the case implies that the film is a mystery: whois the arsonist, Liotta or Leguizamo? In fact, this isn’t really a mystery, since the film is based on a well-publicized case, and when was the last time Liotta didn’t play a weasel? In fact, Liotta becomes the prime suspect quite early on, and we see both his double life and the tightening net.This is a stylish tour-de-force, that makes most other based-on-a-true-story movies seem even more staid and boring than they really are. By turns grim and hilarious, Point of Origin is unfailingly intelligent, and even the music conveys more information than simply mood (listen for the sound of a typewriter, audible right from the start of the film).
I mentioned the sound of a typewriter. Blended with the sound of instruments, and given a superb surround mix, the effect is startling, and I felt the kind of excitement that comes with encountering a really good use of a medium. The dialogue is clear and distortion-free, and the sound effects are very good too. All in all, top-notch stuff.
First-time director Newton Thomas Sigel’s previous experience is as a cinematographer,which explains the great care that has gone into the look of the Point of Origin. The use of colours is fascinating (moving from naturalistic to unnaturally harsh to a mix of bright primaries with a black-and-white background), and these thematically valid stylistic approaches come through perfectly on the widescreen transfer.
Sigel’s commentary is very strong. Though he does pay attention to the technical side of the film (which one would expect, given his background), he puts special emphasis on what all of this flash and dazzle means to the story, and how he wanted the story to work. There are also cast and crew bios, though Sigel’s inaccurately credits Bryan Singer as director of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Point of Origin is one of those DVDs that makes this reviewing gig such a pleasure. I hadn’t heard of the film, knew nothing about it, popped it into the machine and had a hellacious good time. I trust you will too.