This is not one of Jack Nicoholson’s better known roles, but it deserves more attention than it has gotten. Nicholson can always be counted on to deliver a strong performance. It is that skill that turns an average idea into something much more.
Alex Gates (Nicholson) is not a nice man. And let’s face it. Nicholson excels at complicated characters, often with few redeeming qualities. Gates appears to have everything he could want. He’s an apparently successful wine merchant. He has a wife and stepson… Yet Gates is the kind of a man who is never happy. He needs the mistress on the side and the extra thrills that taking risks provides. He decides to steal a wealthy client’s multi-million dollar necklace. Of course, instead of making his life better, events conspire to start making his life miserable. Bad things happen to bad people. That’s a common enough theme in the films of Bob Rafelson. Blood and Wine is no exception, and soon Gates has a hearty helping of good times gone bad. It should be noted that there really aren’t any good guys in this film at all. Rafelson doesn’t want you to sympathize with anyone. He instead uses incredible acting to compel you to follow his characters. Michael Caine treats us to another stellar performance as Victor, Gates’ ruthless partner in the heist. Jennifer Lopez in one of her first roles is a bit underused as Gates’ mistress.
Blood and Wine never makes the mistake of trying to be more than it really is. Still, it is much more than a simple heist film. Part character study, we are given two very fine subjects to watch. This is one of those films where you can be entertained by watching the players with little regard for the stage. We might not be drawn by the story, but we simply can’t resist the storytellers.
Blood and Wine is presented its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Fortunately, black levels are very respectable here, because most of the film is rather dark. In direct contrast to the sunny Miami location, Rafelson chooses to immerse his atmosphere in a hint of darkness always. Colors are always very solid and true to life. Contrast is sharp, and it needs to be here. The bit rate could certainly be better than its 4-5 mbps average. Still, compression artifacts appear to be held to a minimum. There isn’t much grain to speak of. Overall, a nice print.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track doesn’t play out much better than simple stereo. Sure, the dialogue is well placed in the center, but there isn’t much in the mix as far as ambient sounds. The atmospheric score is treated well. You can hear what you need to, and it never covers up the action. A passive but fitting audio.
There is an audio commentary by Bob Rafelson. This has got to be one of the deepest commentaries I’ve ever heard. It’s amazing the level of detail and intensity the man delivers. He delves into the emotional and technical aspects of the film. The only flaw is that he leaves very little room for the viewer’s own feelings about the film. Nicholson, Caine, and Dorff offer very rare items throughout the commentary.
“Making Of Featurette” is a very detailed look not only at the film, but filmmaking in general. The feature can be viewed all at once or in 7 increments. There is no time code, so you can’t save your place and come back later. The featurette plays out like an Inside The Actor’s Studio clinic on acting. Clips of all of the cast members, along with director Bob Rafelson, provide amazing depth to the process of making this or any film. Bob Rafelson is refreshingly candid. He is willing to offer both flattering and at times not so flattering thoughts on the cast. Of Course Rafelson and Nicholson have been working together since Nicholson was a writer for The Monkees. This featurette is more of an analysis than a simple look behind the scenes.There are 8 deleted scenes and an introduction by Bob Rafelson. None of the scenes add anything. This cut footage more or less points out how well the original editing was done.
Every young actor should watch this film. Nicholson and Caine are putting on a valuable workshop, all for the price of a single DVD. The film is worth owning just for the performances. Hats off to Fox for giving us some meat in the extras on such an obscure title. Good thing because a film like this “don’t fly economy”.
Special Features List
- Commentary with Bob Rafelson
- Scene Specific Commentary with Jack Nicholson, Steven Dorf and Michael Caine
- 7 Part Making of Featurette
- Deleted Scenes With Introduction by Director Bob Rafelson
- Theatrical Trailer