|Year Released||1995||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||163:34 Minutes||Other Extras||None|
Warner Home Video
Robert De Niro
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
I can only pick very minor faults with the story in this case, and they are moot because the rest of the story excels. Come to think of it, so does pretty much all of the acting involved in its execution. Natalie Portman's performance as the dysphoric Lauren really moves me because of its authenticity. She really does a great job of conveying a character with such a major chunk missing out of her life. Essentially, she puts in a good performance helped along by some very well thought-out characterization on Michael Mann's part. If anyone ever tells you that her acting skills merely consist of sitting around and looking pretty, this is a great film to dispel that myth with. There are also enough cameos from other wonderful actors in this film to sink the Executor, and Hugh Benny (Henry Rollins), Van Zant's lieutenant is not least among them. While the pace in the sequences used to build up the story and drama are somewhat slow, the action is very powerful. All in all, this is one of the most overlooked performances in both Al Pacino's and Robert De Niro's illustrious careers. This has to be one of the most overlooked classics of the 1990s by far.
The colours have a moderate feel to them that accurately reflects the steel-and-concrete jungle of Los Angeles where most of the film takes place, although the scheme is variable in some scenes. While there are no bright, vibrant colours, the myriad of lighting in night-time scenes is very well done. Essentially, it appears as though the director intended to make the viewer feel as if he or she is sitting right in the midst of the action like an invisible witness. The night-time scenes in this film are gloriously detailed, and they become a real delight to look at. MPEG artefacts were pretty much absent from the presentation in spite of the occasional threat here and there, and as I clarified before, the blurring inherent in backgrounds is not because of the MPEG encoding. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some rather minor aliasing or moiré effects, but this was limited to a small number of such things as night-time shots of buildings, or a few shots involving the presence of high-class menswear. Film artefacts were mostly absent, except for the very occasional speck on the film, and indeed this DVD looks as if it were transferred from a very pristine print. This is a very recent and youthful film, and looks it from start to finish in spite of the minor qualifiers. However, if there's one thing I am not happy with, it is the way the camera (as opposed to the actual telecine projection) wobbles and weaves in amounts that range from slight to dreadful in some scenes. The brief hand-to-hand combat between Al Pacino and Henry Rollins towards the end of the film is, surprisingly, a scene that suffers the least among those that have this problem. There's just a little too much undue influence from the likes of Oliver Stone, methinks.
As is customary for Warner Brothers titles, the subtitles only have a polite relationship with the actual dialogue. This is particularly problematic for the English for the Hard Of Hearing subtitles, as the indications of whom is speaking which line are particularly unhelpful. [Addendum March 15, 2000: During some conversations involving Val Kilmer's character, listed in the credits as Chris Shiherlis, the subtitles in English for the Hard of Hearing refer to his character by the moniker of "MARCIANO". Needless to say, this makes these subtitles rather useless to anyone who actually is hard of hearing, and further makes a joke of the presentation this film has been given on DVD.] The packaging only mentions about three quarters of the available languages (English, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, and German), and also mentions an option that is absent from the disc (Italian for the Hearing Impaired, as it is written). It's bad enough that such an excellent film is packaged in these damned snapper cases, but can't we at least have accurate labelling of the disc's features that is pleasant to look at?
This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change occurring at 78:42, between Chapters 24 and 25. This is probably the best place in which a layer change could occur as it allows the compression space to breathe while being in a location that will cause the least disruption. I'd rate it as slightly better than being just a "good" position. If you're not picky like I am, then you probably won't notice it at all.
The score music by Elliot Goldenthal easily places him in my top five favourite film music composers, although I've never heard any memorable scores by him before or since. Let's just say he has earned a place on the ground floor of that list with his efforts in this film. The intense action scenes, particularly the robberies, are accompanied by surprisingly well-moderated bursts of energetic, percussion-reliant music that has a suitable sort of cops-and-robbers feel to it. Moments such as the marital disputes and Lauren's suicide attempt are accompanied by subtle or dramatic orchestral or choral pieces depending on the scene. The previously mentioned scene in which Vincent discovers Lauren dying in his bathtub is a real triumph as far as tear-jerking, gut-wrenching musical accompaniment. I only know of two pieces of film scoring that moved me as much as this one, and they're both part of the Star Wars saga. Reflective moments are accompanied by slow, warm, and subtle pieces that I could have happily opened a few veins to during my first viewing of the disc. This is a film score that, while not being as constant as I would like, is one that even the great John Williams would be proud of.
The surround presence of this DVD is somewhat variable. Dialogue was always placed in the left and right channels regardless of its point of origin on the video output, and was occasionally enhanced by the centre speaker. Low-level sound effects such as waves crashing and distant engine rumble were also sent through the centre speaker, while the more subtle parts of the music were very gently sent through the back speakers. Rather than being an enveloping sound mix, this is a sound mix designed to create the illusion that you're watching the events on the screen from a lounge chair somewhere in the set. It works well enough on this level, although the surround presence does kick straight into the variety you'd associate with a no-brainer action movie as soon as the more aggressive scenes kick in once more. The subwoofer spent quite a lot of time with little to do, and even gunshot sounds seemed to be deemed unworthy of its support by the people behind the encoding. This is quite disappointing, given how many opportunities there are for subwoofer integration.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The video quality borders on excellent, although it is hindered at times by its need to reflect deliberate flaws put into the film itself.
The audio quality, while being somewhat variable in terms of presence, has enough grand moments to set it apart from many other action films.
Given how great this film is, Warner Brothers could have earned four stars in the extras department just by including a commentary track. As it is, the poorly designed menus are worthy of point deductions from zero.
|DVD||Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Speakers||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer|