American Crime (2003)

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Sell-Through Release Status Unknown
Available for Rent

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-The Hebrew Hammer, Interstate 60, Fear X
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 92:43
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Dan Mintz
Studio
Distributor
Pacesetter Pictures
Imagine Entertainment
Starring Rachael Leigh Cook
Kip Pardue
Annabella Sciorra
Cary Elwes
Amy Arce
Cyia Batten
David Anthony Hernandez
Carlene Moore
Mark Daniel Jones
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Rental Music Kurt Oldman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Somebody is watching. Somebody is taping... I can assure you - it isn't me!

    As a DVD reviewer, every now and again you get to watch a film that changes your outlook on life. Much of the time however, you end up watching boring dreck like American Crime. Quite why films like this are made is beyond me - mediocre in almost every regard, it simply leaves you asking "what else could I have used that portion of my life for"?

    In American Crime, the lovely (and under-utilised) Annabella Sciorra plays Jane Berger, a television producer for a small town station. She is working with her protégé Jesse St. Claire (Rachel Leigh Cook in a dreadful blonde wig) uncovering the goings-on in a local strip joint. When Jesse finds a videotape in the belongings of a missing stripper, they are disturbed to find that she appears to have been stalked by a stranger armed with a camcorder...

    The tape contains footage of other girls who, it turns out, are also missing. When one of the missing girls turns up floating in a local reservoir, it appears that the stalker is more than just an amateur videographer. Luckily, the TV station intern, Rob (an adequate if slightly goofy Kip Pardue), is on hand to film Jane and Jesse's every reaction as they try to unravel the mystery. The intriguing case of the missing women is recounted by Albert Bodine (an incredibly hammy performance by Cary Elwes), host of a British TV show called American Crime, who soon joins the orderly queue of people (although containing no police officers) eager to solve the case. Before too long Jesse receives a tape which features herself, and it becomes obvious that she is next on his list so she quits her job and heads across country and out of harm's way.

    The remainder of the film plays out as Jane, Albert and Rob try to hunt down the owner of the camcorder, before he (gasp!) strikes again. It will come as no surprise that there are twists and turns aplenty as you question just who the killer really is. Then, you realise that you really, honestly don't give a stuff...

    Confused? You will be after watching this episode of... This film is a little confusing - just try and write a decent plot synopsis for it - as it intercuts footage from the American Crime show, the killer's tapes, Rob's camcorder footage and "real-time". It contains a few continuity errors (for instance, when Rob is on the phone to Albert, he has a pile of porn videos on his desk which disappear a second later) and some illogicalities in the plot. When Jane and Rob are (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) walking through the cornfield, the killer is less than a stride behind Jane with his camera, and yet she cannot hear him?). I was not overly impressed by some of the editing, particularly in the unconvincing Silence Of The Lambs rip-off scenes later in the movie. There is simply no hint of suspense or tension present - I just kept wondering how much longer this film would run for. There are some quite nice split-screen and video montage shots, where the various monitors of the American Crime show play different images. The plot is only half-baked in what smacks of a straight-to-video release. All credit to the copy-writers for the blurb on the back cover - they make it sound like a far more entertaining and thrilling experience than it turns out to be. However, they also deserve a small slap on the wrist for the front cover..."Reality TV has gone to far"... I wonder where "far" is?

    Only worth a rental if you have watched everything else in the store - except perhaps the teeth-grindingly awful Warnings.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The overall video transfer of this film is a little variable, but on occasion it is razor sharp.

    Do you collect stamps? If so, you will adore this transfer. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1 - unfortunately it is not 16x9 enhanced, so even on my rather large projector screen is quite tiny. I do not know the OAR - but I suspect it would be 2.35:1.

    Image sharpness tends to vary a little through this flick. Much of the daylight (and most of the outdoor) footage is razor sharp whilst some of the indoor scenes away from the TV studios (particularly low light shots) tend to soften up a little too much for my liking.

    Black levels are reasonable, with no significant low level noise, but I would have preferred a little more shadow detail in the darker scenes. Colours are sometimes very cleanly rendered (outdoor daytime shots), but tend heavily towards the orange end of the spectrum in some of the indoor scenes (at Alice's house around 48:50 for example). There is often a deliberate subdued, "video" feel to some of the colours in an attempt to differentiate between "real" events and "tape" footage. Outside of those scenes skin tones look pretty natural.

    The transfer has no major MPEG artefacts. I noticed no troublesome issues with either aliasing or edge enhancement on my system.

    The transfer is generally totally free from film artefacts and this is a very clean transfer.

    Sadly for hearing impaired viewers there are no subtitles on offer.

    This is a single sided, single layered (DVD 5) disc, so there is no layer change to disrupt the riveting plot.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is technically fine, although fairly uninspiring.

    There is a single audio track which is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at a paltry 224 kbps. It is free from significant defects in the way of hiss, pops or dropouts. The dialogue is always perfectly clear and audio sync gives no cause for concern. (There is actually one moment when a character is speaking, but there is no sound - watch closely at 45:23).

    Original music is credited to Kurt Oldman who seems to be a bit of a newbie to the business. The music is serviceable, but fairly forgettable and really contributes nothing major to the film. It provides a by-the-numbers tension building backdrop, which fails to deliver due to the dire plot.

    The front speakers transmit the dialogue cleanly with some spread across the front soundstage without ever really impressing.

    There is a surround presence, but nothing in the way of significant panning or localised effects. The effects speakers do contribute some musical presence and carry some ambience but, to be honest, they may as well not bother most of the time. My subwoofer indicated some activity throughout the movie - but my ears tended to disagree. There is nothing substantial in the way of LFE activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are limited to a few promotional trailers.

Menu

    The main menu is a static phot of Ms. Sciorra surrounded by video monitors complete with active clips. There is a loop of theme music playing as accompaniment. It allows the options of playing the feature, selecting one of twelve chapter stops, or playing the following trailers:

Trailers

    Promotional trailers for the following Imagine Entertainment flicks are on offer:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film does not appear to be available in Region 1 (or Region 2) at the time of writing.

Summary

    American Crime is a pretty mediocre, presumably straight-to-video release. The plot fails to live up to its potential and the story just comes across as rather meandering and a little confused. It fails to generate any tension and the hammy performance of Cary Elwes is just dreadful. This may withstand a (budget priced) rental when there is simply nothing else to choose on the shelves - otherwise give it a miss.

    The reasonable 2.30:1 video transfer could have been very nice - if it had been anamorphically enhanced.

    The audio transfer is technically fine, but fails to inspire.

    Extra features are limited to a few trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Sunday, May 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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