Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek are buddies in real life, so it makes sense for the two of them to show up in a film together. I was a little surprised to find this disc on my doorstep, however, having totally missed its existence during its theatrical release. It is a good reminder of how much a movie’s success is driven by marketing. Clearly, this is one of those films that the studio wasn’t happy with, so they cut their losses and quietly put the film into select theaters underneath the radar.
It’s a shame, …oo, because this is really not a bad little film. Certainly better than Wild Wild West, Salma’s last western pic, which the studio threw a ton of money at. This is a western buddy picture in the vein of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, except for the obvious difference of two beautiful women in the leading roles.
The plot goes like this; when an American banker (Dwight Yoakam) comes to Mexico and starts buying up banks, people start to get suspicious. When he starts murdering villagers and taking over land, a farm hand and the daughter of one of the bankers take it upon themselves to fight back. Along the way, they pick up a crime scene investigator played by the always-entertaining Steve Zahn. The result is a film that is entirely predictable, but certainly as enjoyable as any number of films that get released in a given weekend.
I was surprised to find such a powerful audio track accompanying a film as little-known as this. The bass tones are amazingly deep and full, and they really do a great job of punctuating the action on screen. (Although, I will admit that sometimes these exclamations come more often than is really necessary.) Dialog is clear, though it is never explained why everybody in Mexico speaks English. Surrounds are possibly used a little too sparingly, but they are satisfyingly subtle when they are put to use.
Unfortunately, the same high praises can’t be made for the video quality. It’s nice that the images are presented in the full sweeping scope that the 2.35:1 aspect ratio makes possible. Unfortunately, the transfer is a big mess. This thing has been compressed to death, and the result is an image quality that may look perfectly fine on a small screen, but on a large widescreen display the results are a pixellated mess. The more movement there is in the frame, the worse the images look.
The other big problem comes from the discs color and black levels. Black levels are very deep, but they are also overly-saturated. Some dark scenes are so dark that the viewer can’t clearly see what is going on. Even some exterior daytime scenes have objects obscured in the shadows. Then, of course, there is the issue with the films color. At some point, somebody decided that all films set in Mexico or the Old West had to look dominatingly brown. The sentiment is taken to extremes here, where everything is brown. Even white objects look more off-white or tan. I understand the idea behind it, to make the viewer think the locations are hot and dirty, but it’s a bit on the annoying side.
As would be expected, this disc is a little light on the extras. The theatrical trailer is included, as is a commentary track by Hayek and Cruz. This track is really as much fun as the film itself. It’s great to hear the two of them chat so comfortably while the film rolls in the background. This is the first track for either of them, and the result is simply charming. Finally, there is a short featurette called Burning up the Set with Salma and Penelope. This is simply an electronic press kit that does nothing more than recap the plot of the film you have assumedly just watched. Don’t waste your time.
I get a lot of bad movies to watch. This is clearly not one of them. It may not be an outstanding film, but it is certainly worth a little Saturday afternoon viewing. Hayek and Cruz clearly have a great repoire, and they are no chore to look at, either. Plus, the addition of a great commentary track goes a long way to making this disc a worthwhile rental at the very least.
Special Features List
- Commentary by Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz
- Burning up the Set with Salma and Penelope Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer