Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989)

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Released 16-Aug-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Biographies-Cast
Notes-Notes On Novel
Production Notes
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 98:28 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Edel Urich
Studio
Distributor
Bernd Eichinger
Infogrames
Starring Stephen Lang
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Burt Young
Peter Dobson
Jerry Orbach
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $32.95 Music Mark Knopfler


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

Having never heard of or seen Last Exit To Brooklyn, I went into this review with an open mind.

    The film is set in Brooklyn during the year 1952, at the height of a brutal labour strike that is taking its toll on both sides. One of the striking workers is Big Joe (Burt Young), whose daughter, Donna, (Ricki Lake) is pregnant, or just fat as he insists even in the eighth month. When it finally sinks into his head that Donna is actually pregnant, he feels it is his duty to go and beat up the young man who happens to be responsible, a lad by the name of Tommy (John Costelloe). While this is going on, the rather oddly-named Tralala (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a prostitute who prefers to lure clients to somewhere nice and quiet where hoodlums can mug them, has a sailor by the name of Steve (Frank Military) fall in love with her.

Meanwhile, the only person in this whole arrangement who is profiting from the strike, a union worker by the name of Harry Black (Stephen Lang), who runs the strike office, is trying to keep his homosexuality under wraps. This task is complicated by the presence of Georgette (Alexis Arquette), the local drag queen, who is constantly harassed by amoral hoodlums such as Sal (Stephen Baldwin). During all of this, union leader Boyce (Jerry Orbach) is having to deal with tensions on both sides, with union members wanting to go back to work so they can feed their families, and the usual McCarthy-esque Americans seeing him as a Communist agitator.

I can't help telling you this, but in spite of trying to get this movie out of the way as quickly and quietly as possible, it took me six hours to get through when you count all of the pauses. Having no sympathetic characters and a totally dismal and upsetting atmosphere might seem artistic to a market segment out there, but it is never a good sign when you have to double your dose of Zoloft right after viewing a film. Even if films that have this kind of negative impact upon your emotional well-being are your thing, I cannot in all honesty recommend this effort for reasons I will cover in the transfer quality.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. According to our information, the intended aspect ratio of this film was 1.85:1, and it would seem that we are getting a cropped presentation here, judging by the cramped composition of many shots.

Right off the bat, with the quote from the Song Of Solomon used to open this film, we get to see exactly what the fundamental problem with this transfer is: it is severely lacking in resolution. Much of the picture is quite blocky and seemingly out of focus, with the backgrounds especially having next to no definition at all. As a consequence of this more or less total lack of sharpness, the shadow detail can be described as mediocre at best. Given the lack of serious artefacts in the picture, other than those that betray the fact that this transfer was taken from a release print, I believe most of these issues relate to the source material. Thankfully, there is no low-level noise in the picture.

The colour saturation of this transfer has no real life to it, in spite of the fact that the colour has been cranked up enough for numerous instances of bleeding and smearing to take place. Numerous long shots with Jennifer Jason Leigh in frame exhibit a white smear coming from her hair, which doesn't help the dated and decidedly poor look of the transfer.

MPEG artefacts were not specifically a problem for this transfer, although the constant blockiness around the edges of objects in the background suggests that the master used to create this transfer posed all sorts of problems to the encoder. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some occasional and minor aliasing, although the presence of this artefact was limited by the lack of resolution in the overall transfer. Film artefacts literally pepper the picture, with a literal parade of white marks to be seen, not to mention several black marks and hairs popping up every now and then. A hair found its way into the telecine machine at 42:00, and there it remained until 42:33, when the scene changed. A square reel change marking was noticed at 18:17, and they continued roughly every seventeen minutes after that until the last was noted at 87:42.



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

Audio

Thankfully, the audio transfer is in better shape than the video transfer, although this is somewhat faint praise because it still does very little to make me want to recommend this effort.

There is only the one soundtrack on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding and encoded at the higher bitrate of 224 kilobits per second. This is one of the few times that I have been truly thankful that there are no alternate renderings of the dialogue, foreign dubs, or commentary tracks, so I stuck with the only choice I had.

The dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand, although the fake Brooklyn accents put on by actors such as Burt Young and Stephen Baldwin posed a problem at times. Since Jerry Orbach puts no effort whatsoever into faking an accent and yet comes off as being far more believable as a Brooklyn citizen, I felt this was a little unnecessary. A couple of minor pops were heard at various points in the soundtrack, but they came and went so quickly that I still feel unsure that I heard them at all. There were no discernable problems with audio sync.

The music in this film consists of contemporary numbers from the era that are used for incidental and prop purposes, as well as a score by Mark Knopfler. When the score is present, it adds to the dismal feeling of the film, making it just that little bit more uncomfortable to sit through. Sometimes, the score would rise out of the background and overpower the film, giving it a more tolerable end result, but the music is otherwise unremarkable.

The surround channels are occasionally used to separate the music from the dialogue and sound effects, but that's really all that this transfer offers. The rest of the film is so heavily biased towards the front that the use of surround-encoding seems like a waste, even if it does yield better separation during moments when score music is used. During such scenes as the riot at the factory, the sound field becomes somewhat cluttered and congested, with several sounds overlapping one another in a way that might have been avoided with a discrete soundtrack. Nonetheless, the soundtrack manages to keep the important dialogue at an understandable level, which is probably the most important thing. The subwoofer was not specifically encoded into this soundtrack, but redirected signals kept it waking up in fits and starts several times in the film, making it somewhat conspicuous.



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

Extras

Menu

The menu is static, not 16x9 Enhanced, but nicely themed.

Cast Biographies

Biographies for Burt Young, Stephen Lang, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alexis Arquette, and Peter Dobson are included under this submenu. Some facts of interest are included, and the filmographies are quite comprehensive, making these biographies a much better read than most others I have read recently.

Notes - Notes On Novel

This series of notes basically begins with a biography of the author, Hubert Selby, Jr., which details his early career, then it gets into the publication of the novel upon which this film is based. This is an interesting recount of all the censorship problems, obscenity trials, and other such tribulations the book faced before it was banned in England, and indeed in a number of other territories. This is well worth reading if you can spare the time.

Production Notes

This is basically a series of anecdotes about how long it took to bring the novel to the screen, how the East Coast shooting locations kept the cast and crew in an appropriately bad mood, and so forth. This is also well worth your reading time if you have any interest in how films are made.

R4 vs R1

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

This disc does not appear to be available in Region 1, but there is a Region 2 version available for 15.99, which roughly works out at just over fifty dollars. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to track down any reliable sources that give any indication about the transfer quality of the Region 2 edition, although I cannot really imagine it being much worse than what we get here. Until I hear confirmation that either Region 1 or Region 2 have an edition with a better video transfer, I will call this one even.

Summary

Last Exit To Brooklyn is a painful movie to sit through, one that made me want to drink myself into a stupor so I wouldn't have to sit and watch people that I had no sympathy for abuse one another. If films in which people get hit by cars, people use each other like paper cups, or men treat their women like a piece of junk they found at a garage sale are your cup of tea, then this film will suit you.

The video transfer is poor, mostly because of the source material.

The audio transfer is okay, but nothing to get really excited about.

The extras are very limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, July 06, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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