In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Robert De Niro may have taken on some more famous roles (like The Deer Hunter and Raging Bull), but he wasn’t shy to experiment in roles with directors like Bernardo Bertolucci (1900), to name a few. And in his first film after playing Jake LaMotta, De Niro plays Des, a monsignor who runs into his brother Tom (Robert Duvall, The Apostle), a police homicide detective.
Written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne (Up Close and…Personal) and directed by Ulu Grosbard (The Deep End of the Ocean), the film parallels many of the events of the so-called “Black Dahlia” murder, but instead of putting the primary focus on the murder and the quest for justice, the film focuses on the relationship between the brothers. Tom feels strongly that a shady businessman named Jack Amsterdam (Charles Durning, Tootsie) could be behind the murder. What complicates things is that Des works a lot with Amsterdam, and Tom was also an old acquaintance of Amsterdam’s business dealings. Des and Tom are somewhat reluctant to expose Amsterdam, in large part because the other would be exposed of their crooked business ties. It poses a particular problem with Des, as he is a rising star in the Los Angeles Catholic establishment.
Obviously, the stars of the film are Duvall and De Niro, but their performances are a little bit different than you’re used to seeing. De Niro is far more subdued and internalizing than we’re all used to. Duvall is the tougher guy unsure about what all of this will do to his brother, and it provides for a touching reunion between the two. Duvall might not be too convincing a character in this performance, but the story (and De Niro’s work) really make this something to see if you haven’t before.
The film has got Dolby stereo and Mono tracks, and it’s dialogue driven, so there’s not much workout for those who have rear speakers. But everything sounds OK with no issues.
This disc has a full frame version of it on one side, and a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen version on the other. The film grain is consistent throughout without looking too hazy, and although it’s not sharp, the print is pretty pristine for a quarter century old film.
Zilch-a-roni on either side of the disc, which sucks arse.
As I mentioned earlier, True Confessions is a good film with two of the greatest American actors still with us today. The extras (or lack thereof) is a disappointment to say the least, but it’s worth seeing now that it’s here on DVD.