Heaven's Burning (1997)

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Released 8-Aug-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Interviews-Cast & Crew
Deleted Scenes
Script To Screen Comparison
Featurette-Director's Reel
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 95:11 (Case: 99)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (86:36) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Craig Lahiff

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Russell Crowe
Youki Kudoh
Kenji Isomura
Ray Barrett
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music Graeme Koehne
Michael Atkinson

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, a lot
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Heaven's Burning is another Australian production that, like The Pirate Movie before it, seems doomed to fade away by itself before anyone really gets a chance to look at it. Whether it is because of a lack of support from the film companies responsible for its distribution, or just because of bad luck, it is something of a shame since it came out hot on the heels of L.A. Confidential, a definite exhibition of Russell Crowe's show-stealing skills. Still, forgetting all of the politics that lurk in the business of filmmaking for a second, this is not too bad an effort for those who don't mind a bad film with a great actor in it.

    The film begins with a young Japanese couple honeymooning in Australia, with Yukio (Kenji Isomura) and Midori (Youki Kudoh) dining in a fine restaurant within what would appear to be Melbourne, although the locations seem a tad hard to place. Despite the "all-is-well" facade, the marriage is facing problems, even though it is only at the honeymoon stage. The problem is very simple, in that Yukio is a typical Japanese businessman, and somewhat unattractive, and Midori doesn't love him, a fact that is patently obvious to the men watching the security cameras. After realising that the businessman she was having an affair with, who just happens to be her former boss, has got a case of cold feet and won't be coming to Australia to be with her, she goes to visit the bank.

    Said bank is then robbed by a group of what appear to be Muslims (possibly Arabs), and one cannot help but wonder if this is where Guy Ritchie got the idea for the robbery of the bookie's in Snatch. Naturally, the getaway driver just happens to be a fairly decent guy named Colin (Russell Crowe), who is only with them because his business went bust a while ago and he needs the money. Essentially, the patriarch of the family, Cam (Ray Barrett) thinks Colin is not to be trusted, while his eldest son, Mahood (Robert Mammone) has seen Colin drive. Of course, when they rob the bank, things go wrong as they tend to do, and one of them is killed in the process before they take Midori hostage, and decide to kill her because she gets a glimpse of their faces. Colin, however, will not have a bar of that and kills Mahood's younger brother in the process of saving Midori, thus sparking a bitter vendetta.

    From there, it is a literal case of Bonnie And Clyde as Colin and Midori rob a bank to finance their escape from less than idyllic circumstances, and Yukio sets off with rage in his eyes, on a path to track down the woman who jilted him. That's about as much as I will say about the film, because I think if I reveal too much else, I will spoil the story and thus deprive the viewer of any real reason to experience it for themselves. As Russell Crowe films go, this is not a bad effort, although I prefer quirkier efforts from his acting repertoire such as Virtuosity or The Quick And The Dead. Still, considering that none of the other actors have been heard of before or since they appeared in this effort, you're going to have to be raving mad about Crowe to consider it. Fans of this actor, director Craig Lahiff, and Australian films in general will enjoy Heaven's Burning, but others are advised to wait until Romper Stomper finally gets a local release. If you are curious enough about the film, however, keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by Ian Turpie as a used car salesman.

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Transfer Quality


    This transfer appears to have been taken from a release print. That's the bad news. The good news is that this transfer is not too bad considering the print source.

    The transfer is presented in the proper aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. It is also encoded with automatic pan and scan information for the benefit of those who want to miss out on half the picture.

    The sharpness of this transfer is good, but not great, with the foregrounds being very well defined while any object that is distant to the camera is hazy and ill-defined. This may or may not be inherent in the way that the film was shot, but it is a disconcerting effect, nonetheless. The shadow detail is very average, due in part to the print source that was used to create the transfer, but there was no low-level noise.

    The colours in this film are somewhat harsh, with the reds in particular being emphasised, which gives the film the look of having been shot in a desert rather than a series of townships and urban locations. This is especially noticeable in the early hotel scenes, where the walls and skin tones have a much more jaundiced look to them, thanks in part to the increased reds.

    MPEG artefacts are not a specific problem with this transfer, although the limited resolution does not help matters any. Film-to-video artefacts were a moderate problem in such things as car chrome, especially the edges of car bonnets and the chrome around the windows. The shimmering in these areas of the picture had a beady, jagged appearance, as if someone attempted to sharpen these areas of the picture for reasons best known to themselves. Film artefacts consisted of a lot of black marks on the picture, almost enough that one could have mistaken the film for being forty years old rather than four. A series of reel change markings were noticed at 15:01, and several times in the film after that.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place between Chapter 22 and 23 at 86:36. Given that this interrupts a sound effect, albeit a background one, it is noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Accompanying a serviceable video transfer is a serviceable audio transfer, although it is something of a missed opportunity for a good 5.1 mix.

    There is one soundtrack on this disc: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 224 kilobits per second. Having no other option, I listened to this soundtrack in its entirety.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand except when one of two things happen: either the Japanese characters talk, or the Arabic characters talk. When either of these things happen, the dialogue becomes a little difficult to understand because of the thick accents, although not so badly so that a little effort doesn't fix the problem. There were no subjectively discernable problems with audio sync.

    The score music in this film is credited to Michael Atkinson and Graham Koehne, with pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Wagner being used at a couple of points for good measure. The score music is off-beat and quirky enough to match the story, and I wouldn't mind having it on compact disc if I had money to be throwing away.

    Being a stereo mix, there was no activity from the surround channels. During Chapter 15, you can hear what a great shame this is, with the winds howling around the home of Colin's father in such a way that just begs for some support in the rears. Given the recent vintage of this film, it is a great pity that there are no serious usages of the surround channels. The subwoofer was not actually encoded into the soundtrack, but my processor redirected some signal into it to support various sound effects. It supported them well without calling any specific attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static, and not 16x9 Enhanced.

Cast & Crew Interviews

    Interviews with Russell Crowe (5:16), Youki Kudoh (4:35), director Craig Lahiff (4:40), producer Al Clarke (4:28), and producer Helen Leake (3:44) are presented under this submenu. Each chapter comprises several snippets about specific aspects of the film, and is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Deleted Scenes

    Four deleted scenes are presented under this submenu. In order, these are Stealing The Car (0:40), On The Trail (0:47), The Porch (5:10), and The Gym (1:24). Each scene is presented in very rough form, with the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and what appears to be timing information in the bottom of the frame. They are not 16x9 Enhanced. Some commentary is offered by the director as to why the footage was cut.

Script To Screen Comparison

    This four minute and fifty-eight second featurette directly compares snippets of the script to what eventually turned up on the screen. It is presented with the script notes in a rough 1.44:1 ratio, with footage from the film in 2.35:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary from the director. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurette - Director's Reel

    An eighteen minute and eight second featurette of what appears to be unused footage that was shot by the same director. Quite what this featurette is meant to achieve, I don't know, but it is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Thankfully, it features commentary by the director as to how this reel relates to the feature.

Theatrical Trailer

    This one minute and forty-nine second trailer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Oddly enough, this trailer looks better than the feature in spite of that.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of the disc misses out on;

    Information about the Region 1 version of the disc was hard to find, but DVD Authority finally obliged me with the
information that not only is the Region 1 disc taken from what they describe as a print source in need of an overhaul, but it is
also not 16x9 Enhanced. In spite of the presence of a commentary on the Region 1 product, ours is the clear winner for those
who can't wait for this film to get the halfway decent treatment it deserves.


    Heaven's Burning is an interesting film that is one part Romeo And Juliet (but done in a much more interesting way) and two parts Natural Born Killers, presented in such a way that you'll be glad you watched the film once it is over, even if the transition to the end is a laborious process.

    The video transfer is good.

    The audio transfer is good.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, September 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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