When I first glanced over the cast of this film, I was certain that it was shot in the 80’s. These days, names such as Deborah Harry, Ally Sheedy, Ralph Macchio and Robin Givens just don’t show up together on a movie poster. Of course, this is no ordinary gangster film, either. In fact, for a director trying to make a name for himself, this casting strategy is pretty brilliant. If Quentin Tarrantino has taught us anything, he has taught us that old actors don’t lose their chops, they just become less fashionable. If …ou can get a name with skill at a bargain rate, then by all means, do so.
From the opening title sequence, I was hooked on the visuals of this film. It is clear that Singer has fun as a director, and that enthusiasm bleeds over into the feel of the film. In fact, the whole piece is cut like a feature-length trailer, with lots of action going on behind the camera, and respectable acting in front of it.
Unfortunately, the third member of the film triumvirate, the script, is marginal at best. It’s hard to make an original gangster movie, as the genre has been around for so long, and there are so many set rules to follow. A valiant effort was made to try something new here, but it just doesn’t come together. To my knowledge, I correctly followed the plot… but I could be wrong. The use of a subtle non-linear storytelling style will confuse most audiences, as least it did me. Often times, a change of clothing is the only key that what you are watching now differs from what you were watching just before. The characters and location do not change. This forces the audience to work extra hard just to discern the basic plot of the film.
If Singer was put in charge of a mainstream script, he might strike movie gold. For this film, however, he will have to settle for the bronze.
This is a small film with big characters. Often times, a great way to broaden the feel of a small film is to present it with a big Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. That very thing would have helped this disc, as the only track here is mastered in basic 2.0. As a result, some of the dialog is hard to hear, especially when characters are whispering, on the telephone, or there is moderate street noise. Unless the speaker is prominently featured in the shot, their voice gets lost in the shuffle.
There is plenty of low end on this track, but most of it is muffled and unpolished. At least it’s there, however. Surrounds sound effects are completely nonexistent. This is a prime example of how unimpressive audio can make a film feel small. Every sound is anchored to the front of the room, and nothing moves around with the action. This is a film that would most certainly have reaped the benefits of a surround track.
Full screen. In today’s savvy marketplace, why on Earth would any studio bother to release a title in full screen? I’ll be honest… I don’t know the numbers on products that are available in both formats, but there comes a time when the studios have to begin pushing the consumer forward.
But then again, who knows? Maybe it was originally shot in full screen. At any rate, here it is. The good news is, I didn’t see any distracting digital panning. The even better news is, Singer is a visual director. The film is absolutely filled with unique camera angles, inventive editing and complex camera speeds. For fans of progressive cinema, Singer does a great job of showing how the medium can progress, while not having to address those advances in the text of script (as was the case in The Matrix).
As for the transfer, the image is clean, with no blemishes to speak of. The colors utilized in the film, while understated, actually add some weight to the subject matter. In fact, the whole picture has a gritty, The Shield-type feel to it. Full screen transfer aside, this is a respectable video presentation.
The good news is, the trailer is included. The bad news is, that’s it. If there was ever a time to include Cast and Crew Bios, this is that time. I can understand why a studio wouldn’t want to invest the time in producing a whole bunch of extras for a disc that isn’t going to sell a ton of copies, but not including something that would take one person an afternoon to type up is just plain laziness.
Regardless, nobody asked what I thought should go on the disc, so here it is… the film and the trailer. If you want more information, check out the Internet Movie Database.
This is a film that deserves to bee seen for its inventive storytelling techniques and creative camera work. The feel of this film is almost as gritty as The French Connection. Unfortunately, the script is tailor made for a “B” list gangster flick. In the future, Singer may turn into a really powerful director. In the meantime, however, he is still learning his trade. This film might get him a passing grade in film school, but it’s not quite up to the standard set by his Hollywood predecessors.
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